With Kylie Jenner named as the youngest billionaire in the world by Forbes, the millennial dream of becoming a full-time influencer has never been more alive. In the past few years, there has been an influx of people trying to break into the industry; creating engaging content for their audiences and looking for genuine partnership deals with established brands.
However, the increase in the number of creators has led to intense competition for followers, engagement and brand partnerships – especially in fashion and beauty. As such, a number of creators have bought fake followers to boost their numbers to try to increase their chances of being offered sponsorships. Others have even faked paid sponsorship deals with big brands in order to create a buzz around their own channel and secure other genuine partnership opportunities.
For brands, this “influencer fraud” presents a major issue. It’s estimated that influencer marketing is worth more than $1.5bn worldwide, and the Association of National Advertisers recently found 75% of marketers currently work with influencers and 27% plan to do so in the next 12 months. With this level of money being spent, it’s essential that brands can show strong ROI on all their campaigns – something that isn’t possible if half an influencer’s followers are fake.
Despite best efforts by brands to avoid fraudulent accounts, it isn’t always possible. With no standardised way of measuring the success of an influencer campaign, this naturally creates opportunity for those less-moral creators to earn a quick income with minimal consequences. However, there are a number of ways that brands can protect themselves.
At the start of campaigns it’s essential to thoroughly vet all potential influencers. There are some platforms that provide credibility scores and reviews of campaigns that creators have done with other brands. This can give great insight into how well similar content went down with their audiences and peace of mind that they are genuine creators not fraudsters.
Looking at how their community has grown over time is also a good indicator of whether there is any suspicious activity behind the account. If there are big spikes in follower numbers that don’t match to a specific piece of content or paid partnership, then it’s likely they have paid for fake followers.
Similarly, if an influencer regularly follows and then unfollows a large number of accounts, they are not going to be the authentic, credible voices you are looking for. Accounts like this are best avoided, as a hefty percentage of the people you reach through them aren’t real users who can buy products or aren’t people who are invested in that influencer.
What’s fundamental in avoiding influencer fraud is to do your due diligence thoroughly before starting any campaign. While the vast majority of creators are genuine, there are fraudulent accounts out there, particularly in the micro-influencer sector, but there are also trusted platforms which can help you make informed decisions on who to work with.
Gergő Csiszár is chief executive of Post For Rent