Influencer marketing is the new gold mine of marketing, with companies generating as much as $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencers, this is according to a poll of marketing professionals carried out by Tomoson. This is a typical ROI of influencer marketing when done right using genuine influencers. Here are some important facts about influencer marketing conversion.
- “Online reviews from strangers are trusted by 88 per cent of buyers, as much as suggestions from friends.” — From BrightLocal
- “About 40% of Twitter users claim they’ve purchased as a direct result of an influencer’s Tweet.” — From Twitter
- “89% say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels.” — From Bigcommerce
However, influencer marketing also has its dark side, which is fake influencers. Fake influencers are influencers that gain followers or engagement through fraudulent means, such as buying followers, likes, and comments. These influencers’ audiences don’t convert because the majority of their audience are dummy accounts or bots. This has become a serious issue. Almost half of marketing and advertising experts believe that false influencer scams have cost them 10-20% of their ad expenditure, and this is subject to increase as more brands are looking into influencer marketing to promote their business.
To prevent being duped out of thousands or millions of dollars by fraudulent influencer collaborations with no real audience, here are the steps you can take to identify fake or fraudulent influencers.
Note: Some genuine influencers might also fail one or two of the criteria below. But, not more than two in most cases.
Step #1 Check the Influencer engagement rates
Engagement rate is one of the most important metrics you can use to evaluate the authenticity of an influencer’s account. It tells us the average amount of interactions (likes, comments, replies, retweets, shares etc) a social media content or account receives relative to reach. It is usually calculated by dividing the sum of the total number of likes and comments on a post by the number of followers of the account.
However, It can easily be calculated using one of these free tools Mightyscout engagement rate calculator, Phlanx engagement rate calculator, Grin engagement rate calculator or using a Chrome extension like Wefind.
Engagement rate of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram Page using Mightyscount engagement calculator.
The average engagement rate is not constant, it varies based on niche or industry, social media platforms and Number of followers. For example, the average engagement rates in meme niches are quite high compared to other niches. This is because people interact with meme content more than other content on the internet. Likewise, the average engagement rates are quite high on TikTok compared to Instagram, YouTube, and other social media. This is attributed to the short videos nature of TikTok. Finally, pages with few followers tend to have high engagement rates compared to pages with numerous followers. This is because micro-influencers tend to be more close to their followers than macro-influencers.
Now, how do I spot fake influencers using engagement rates? This is a bit tricky and requires brands to do proper research to ascertain the standard engagement score or ratio for a particular niche on a particular social media. Before comparing it with that of the influencer they want to partner with. If the influencer’s engagement rate falls short of the average engagement score, it means the influencer has a lot of inactive followers or bots. If the influencer’s engagement goes way above the average engagement score, in most cases the influencer might have bought engagement. The sweet spot is always in the middle, not too high and not too low.
It is also important to note that engagement rate alone is not enough to tag an influencer as fake, there are many reasons why engagement rates fluctuate. This is why it is essential to consider other criteria before making your final decision.
Step #2 Check the quality of engagement
While engagement rate is a significant metric to measure, the quality of the engagement is also significant even more than the engagement rate. The quality of engagement I am referring to is the quality of likes and comments on a post. When it comes to checking the quality of engagement, there are three things to look out for:
- Quality of comments: to determine if the likes and comments on a post are real, you will need to meticulously analyse the comments and likes. By manually checking for irrelevant comments that don’t correlate with the context of the post or can be used on any post. Examples of such fake engagements are emoji-only or generic comments like “nice pics”, “nice product” etc that can be used on any post regardless of the brand or context.
- Average likes to comment ratio: It is a common practice for likes on a social media post to far exceed the comments on a post, except during give-aways. An influencer post with a higher number of comments than likes, the same number of comments than likes, no significant difference between the number of comments and likes on almost all their posts is most likely a fraudulent influencer. There are several ways you can check for this:
- Check if the comments on the post are all made by a particular follower, if yes then check if the comments are similar, if yes then the influencer is most likely using bots to place comments on his or her post.
- Check if the influencers reply to all the comments with the same comment, if yes the influencer is trying to manipulate the engagement rate. It is ok for an influencer to reply to their audience comments, but not to all 100 or more comments on a post. This is because it takes time to leave comments, and in most cases, it can only be done by bots.
- Profile of the engaged audience: one other way of determining the quality of engagement of an influencer post is by checking the profile of the audience that engaged with the post(s). Comments and likes from an audience with a profile picture and a detailed bio are more likely to come from a human while, comments and likes from profiles without profile pictures nor a detailed bio are more likely from bots.
Step #3 Check if the influencer belongs to an Engagement pods
Before we go further into this, let us first know what engagement pods are. According to Grin “Influencer pods are groups of influencers that work together to boost one another’s engagement in a quid pro quo relationship”. These groups are usually on WhatsApp or Telegram. Whereby an influencer that wants to increase engagement on their post will post the link of the post on the group and the members of the group will go to the post and leave comments and likes. Depending on the number of members of the group, the influencer can gain as many as a thousand likes or comments. So how do we spot influencers that use engagement pods to boost their engagement? The most efficient means is through social media artificial intelligence. Another means is by searching for like-for-like engagements among a select group of influencers and by careful checking the comment section for suspicious engagement.
Step #4 Check for sudden fluctuation in the number of followers
Sudden fluctuation in the number of followers following an influencer, either in the positive or negative direction, can be a sign that an influencer is fake. It is normal for influencers to gain several followers in a day and loss a few followers too. But, a sudden spike in the number of followers gained in a single day or week, especially if there is nothing special like contests or giveaways going on the influencer page, is a serious red flag. The same also applies when an influencer loses a lot of followers. This is because when you buy followers, the majority of them end up unfollowing you after some hours.
Step #5 Check the influencer followers
There are two things to check for when it comes to determining whether an influencer is fake or not, using followers:
- Check if the majority of the followers have profile pictures that are genuine: If a significant amount of the followers have genuine profile pictures, then we can assume the influencer is genuine.
- Check the followers vs the following rates: It is common to see influencers with numerous followers that fall exceeds the following. In a situation where the reverse is the case or the follower volumes and following volumes are equal or almost the same, such an influencer is most likely a fake influencer and most likely using the follow for following gimmicks to entice people to follow an account in exchange for a follow back.
Step #6 Asked the influencers for their story views for the week
As I have mentioned earlier, some genuine influencers can also fail some criteria above. This is why it is always important to ask the influencers for screenshots of their story views for the week. A high story view that is comparable to the average of views on their feed is a good sign that the influencer has a genuine audience that is interested in the influencer content. While a very low story view that doesn’t match the number of followers is a red flag.
Working with fake influencers can be detrimental to brands’ finances and reputation, which is why it is essential to manually screen an influencer’s account rather than depending solely on influencer marketing tools for finding influencers. This might be time-consuming, but it is necessary if you are looking to work with genuine influencers, and remember not all influencers that fail one of the criteria mentioned above are fake, it might be due to other factors. So, before you conclude, make sure the influencer fails 2 or more of the above criteria.
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