How to identify and avoid fake influencers

Working with influencers can be beneficial to brands, but how do you know who you are working with? Here is how you can spot a fake influencer.

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Influencer marketing is something that we have covered on several occasions on the Browser Media blog, and it can be a crucial tool in a company’s wider marketing strategy. However, like all marketing activities, there is a level of care and diligence that is required to make sure your efforts are being rewarded.

The biggest concern when working with influencers is understanding the legitimacy of their following and whether they are the right audience for your brand. The latter is arguably the more obvious, before working with an influencer to make sure they are the perfect match. But in all honesty, how many brands can say they take the time to make sure an influencer’s following is authentic?

This was something I questioned a lot more after watching Fake Famous, a documentary/social experiment that explores the meaning of fame in the digital age. I’ll try to avoid spoilers as it’s something I would recommend watching, but the documentary took three individuals with relatively small social media followings and turned them into ‘famous influencers’ by simply buying followers and bots to engage with their content. The outcomes are really interesting, and quite surprising, when you look at the impact it has on the individual and how brands perceive their so-called ‘fame and influence’.

After watching the documentary I found myself questioning the legitimacy of everyone with a large following on social media. I’m not saying that everyone who has a lot of followers paid for them, but it raises the question that you can never truly be sure. There are certain things to question such as:

  • Does the number of posts they have shared match up with what you would expect from someone with a large following? Of course, influencers can delete posts but if they have very few posts and lots of followers, it’s a red flag.
  • Are they getting consistent likes? It is now possible to buy engagement as well as followers, however, if one post gets thousands of likes and the next just a handful, it’s a strong indication that it has been tampered with in some way.
  • Are people commenting on their posts? Comments are less common than likes, however, if a page has lots of followers and is getting tons of likes, but no comments, something is off.
  • How relevant are the comments? Fake comments produced by bots will often be very similar, with really generic wording. If you see multiple same or very similar comments on a post then be cautious.

How to spot fake influencers

Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to help you identify fake influencers. There are tools that will provide you with the engagement rate of an account, but if that isn’t backed up by an industry benchmark it doesn’t add much value. Additionally, the engagement rate could look really strong, however, how do you know if it is real engagement and not paid for?

Another thing to look out for is whether their growth has been consistent, without large unexplainable spikes. If you can see their following has grown exponentially over a shorter period of time that is another red flag. However, once again fake influencers can avoid this by paying for bots that follow your account over a set period of time as opposed to all at once.

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that I’m saying to never work with an influencer again, that is absolutely not the case. Influencers can be an extremely valuable part of a wider marketing campaign, however, it’s important to do your research before working with someone.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give for someone working with an influencer for the first time is to ask for examples of past work. People can fake likes, comments and follows with bots, but they can’t fake the time and effort that goes into an influencer campaign. In most aspects of life you would ask for proof before working with someone, for example, you wouldn’t hire a builder to renovate your home without proof of their work, so why would you do the same when working with an influencer. Especially due to the fact that many can charge a big fee.

Partnering with the right influencers can be an extremely beneficial way to boost awareness, drive users to your site, and ultimately increase conversions. However, the important word in the above is partnering with the right influencer. A bit of time invested in researching and finding the perfect influencer will save a lot of time and money in the long run.

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