In the digital age, social media has grown to be a dominant force shaping public opinion, consumer behavior, and brand perception. Central to this force is the 'social media influencer.'
As businesses incorporate influencer marketing strategies, the potential pitfalls, including influencer fraud, become more evident. This article explores the world of social media influencers, the lurking danger of ad fraud, and how tools like Anura can ensure genuine influencer engagements.
What is a social media influencer and what is their purpose?
A social media influencer is someone with the power to shape and influence the opinions, preferences, and purchasing decisions of their audience, primarily through platforms like Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
These influencers may have built their followings around niches like fashion, tech, or travel. The purpose? They bridge the gap between brands and consumers, offering a seemingly organic way to introduce products, services, or ideas to a vast audience.
How do influencers make money?
Influencers generate revenue in various ways:
- Sponsored content: Brands pay influencers to promote products or services.
- Affiliate marketing: They earn commissions for sales generated through their links.
- Selling merchandise or services.
- Paid partnerships and collaborations.
Influencer Relationship with Brands
Brands and influencers benefit from each other. While brands get a genuine voice and direct line to potential consumers, influencers get content and monetary compensation. This relationship is typically governed by agreements outlining expectations, deliverables, and payment.
The Dark Side: Fake Profiles, Fake Likes, and Fake Followers
With the promise of quick fame and potential financial gains, many were tempted to boost their perceived influence through dishonest means. This includes creating fake profiles that impersonate real people or entities, generating artificial 'likes' that don't come from real users, and accumulating followers, often bots, that don't genuinely engage with content.
Research paints a concerning picture of this phenomenon. For instance, studies suggest that 10-15% of Instagram accounts might be inauthentic. A joint study from the University of Southern California and Indiana University estimated that bots operate between 9% and 15% of active Twitter accounts. Meanwhile, Facebook's transparency reports have revealed that the platform deletes billions of fake accounts every year, suggesting that roughly 5% of its monthly users are not genuine.
Why do fraudsters create fake likes and profiles?
One major reason is monetary gain. In the influencer community, having a vast number of followers or likes often leads to profitable deals and partnerships. Moreover, a large following can be perceived as a stamp of validation or credibility online.
Some fraudsters also aim to mislead the public by using these fake accounts to spread false information or manipulate public opinion. They might have malicious intentions as well, using seemingly genuine profiles to scam individuals, steal sensitive information, or gather data.
The growing demand for high follower counts and engagement further encourages such deceit. By fabricating profiles and inflating metrics, they make accounts look more influential than they are, tricking businesses into paying them more.
The Impact on Businesses
Brands and businesses invest heavily in influencer partnerships, expecting genuine engagement and sales as a return on their investment. However, when confronted with fake metrics, their resources go to waste. It's akin to advertising to non-existent entities or "ghosts" – where no real individual interacts with the product or service.
The repercussions of ad fraud within influencer marketing can be severe. Brands risk squandering their budget on campaigns that don't deliver, misinterpreting how well their campaigns are doing, and tarnishing their image by inadvertently partnering with deceitful influencers.
How do you vet a genuine influencer?
As sophisticated as fraud is today, it can be challenging to distinguish between genuine influencers and those propped up by bots. Here's a guide to help companies distinguish the real from the fake:
- Analyze Engagement Rate: Genuine influencers typically maintain an engagement rate (a measure of likes and comments relative to their follower count) ranging from 1% to 5%. If an influencer has hundreds of thousands of followers but only a handful of interactions, it's a red flag.
- Quality of Interaction: Look beyond numbers. Authentic comments often have diversity and relevance, as opposed to generic comments like "Nice!" or "Great post!", which can be easily automated.
- Monitor Follower Growth: Sudden and dramatic increases in followers can indicate the purchase of fake followers.
- Use Analytics Tools: Platforms like Social Blade, Fohr Card, and HypeAuditor provide insights into an influencer's followers, growth patterns, and engagement, highlighting inconsistencies and flagging potential anomalies.
- Review Past Collaborations: An influencer's previous brand partnerships and their outcomes can be telling. a good indicator. Reputable influencers showcase case studies and analytics to prove their worth.
- Audience Demographics: Genuine influencers will have a consistent demographic that matches their niche and content. An American beauty blogger, for instance, should ideally have a significant portion of followers from the US who are interested in beauty.
- Test the Waters with a Trial: Before entering a long-term contract, start with a short-term collaboration to measure actual results.
Request Their Platform Insights: Most social media platforms provide users with insights into their account's activity. Genuine influencers won't hesitate to share this if it means securing a legitimate partnership.
By following this comprehensive vetting process, companies can increase their chances of partnering with influencers who truly resonate with their audience and deliver authentic value.
Anura’s Search and Social Protect
Social media influencers have become a key tool for businesses aiming to connect with their audience in a genuine way. This approach holds great promise for brands, offering them a chance to tap into the large following these influencers have built. However, just like any opportunity, it's not without its problems. One of the main challenges is the rise of fake influencers who don't offer real value.
Thankfully, tools like Anura are available to help businesses identify and collaborate with authentic influencers. By ensuring they partner with genuine individuals, businesses can optimize their promotional efforts, ensuring they get a real return on their investment and build meaningful connections with their audience.