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Advertisers Fed Up with Fake Influencers & What To Do About It

Influencer marketing can be an amazingly effective brand awareness activity leading to lots of conversions . . . or an expensive lesson. Advertisers are fed up with fake influencers that result in the latter, but many are unsure of what to do about it, beyond give up the practice entirely. There are options though – and we’re sharing a few to get your brand rethinking its approach.

Abandon Ship or Rethink the Voyage

Brands are spending lots of money on influencer marketing. According to Business Insider, “as influencers become more plentiful and proven, brand dollars have flooded into the space. Brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022.”

And although influencers can be found on pretty much every platform, as can be seen below, Instagram is the top spot with three channels following behind “nearly four in five (79%) brands predominantly tap Instagram for influencer campaigns, compared with Facebook (46%), YouTube (36%) and Twitter (24%).”

Influencer marketing channel stats

And it makes sense to do so – this influencer marketing activity. Because, word of mouth online is still the best way to find new customers and build relationships with them.

Or is it?

According to The Wall Street Journal, advertisers are feeling sort of bitter about the state of influencer marketing of late and are rethinking this strategy.

“A whiff of deceit now taints the influencer marketplace. Influencers have strained ties with advertisers by inflating the number of their followers, sometimes buying fake ones by the thousands.” A tactic that’s ridiculously easy to pull off – and get away with.

“They also have damaged their credibility with real-life followers by promoting products they don’t use.” Or just over-promoting, in general. And oftentimes, brands have unwittingly encouraged this practice:

brands have unwittingly encouraged fake influencers with how they're sourcing them

So, with some considering abandoning the practice, others are focused on its obvious value. The differentiator is that some are committed to doing it right. So, they’re rethought how it should look.

Their answer? Micro-influencers.

Micro-Influence Is Anything But

Who are these micro-influencers anyway?

They’re influencers with relatively small, but very engaged followings. Their accounts have less than 10k followers, on average. Sometimes they even hover around the 1,000 mark. But their size should not define them. It’s all about the impact – and these micro-influencers can pack quite a punch.

micro-influencer with engaged following

So, does that mean brands should create similar promotions for these micro-influencers? Yes, but it’s not that easy. Nothing online is, of course.

Before your brand stocks up on gift cards or mini-giveaways for every fan with 500 followers on your Instagram feed, be sure to have your social analytics house in order. You’ll want to examine who these folks are and decide if they’re actually influential, just as you’d examine a mega-influencer before deciding to collaborate.

fake influencers that have advertisers angry

Because, although you’ll find many micro-influencer lists, they’re irrelevant to your specific brand – so don’t rely on general lists for this discovery. And definitely don’t rely on influencer farms.

What should you rely on? Your accurate and transparent next generation AI-powered social analytics, of course!

Confirming Credibility

The way a brand confirms a micro-influencer’s ability to actually influence anyone is the same way a brand should be confirming a celebrity’s relevance.

And although it may seem easier to confirm a micro-influencer’s credibility in your category due to the volume of posts about them (as the number of posts about/by micro-influencers would be so much less than those about/by mega-influencers), it can actually get pretty tricky.

Well, unless they fake a trip to Paris and photoshop it poorly:

fake influencer with photoshopped trip to Paris

Hopefully they don’t tag your brand in it, as this “influencer” did above!

But it’s not usually that obvious. Here’s why:

  • Micro-influencers want to be mega-influencers and often employ the same “fake followers” tactics, just on a lesser scale. So, it can be harder to spot.
  • The influencer realm is its own universe, with small, vocal groups supporting each other with comments and likes. This activity is equally fake when it comes to generating authentic awareness, and ultimately, conversions for a brand. Tracking who these folks are and understanding what this “exceptional engagement” is really worth, is key.
  • These folks can become over-eager once they land a paid promotion and, in an attempt to do a good job, could over-promote a brand (or a bunch of brands). Or they may just overdo it, in general. And this will gradually (and definitely) turn followers off. They may already be in the midst of doing this when you find them actually. Brands need to track influencer engagement levels over time for precisely this reason.

Creating Benchmarks & Monitoring Efforts

First, you need to understand how people are talking about your influencers – and who is doing the talking. As mentioned, if the most active authors are just a large group of other influencer friends, you can move on and find someone else.

You’ll want to have a solid grasp of:

  • The overall conversation volume, as well as potential impressions
  • If the influencer is generating solid passion intensity – or any emotion at all!
  • Top topics the influencer and his/her followers are talking about – and what hashtags accompany those conversations

Confirming influence by exploring how influencers are talking

Continuing that last bullet – digging deeper into those conversations will be important. Surface insight can be deceptive. Just because a #redshirt is mentioned a ton, it doesn’t mean those posts are the ones attracting an audience’s attention.

Seeing what is shared the most and conversations that are trending – and being able to click through and sort out why – is necessary.

Seeing what is shared the most by influencers and conversations that are trending

And influencer’s most engaging content might surprise you. You won’t know unless you can explore transparent, accurate insight behind each post though:

most engaging content real influencers are sharing

And it’s the same when it comes to finding them, which we kind of skipped above!

How to Find Micro-influencers

There are endless micro-influencers clamoring for brand attention online, so explore those options carefully! There are an equal number of bad actors to good out there, unfortunately. Which connects back to where we started, and is exactly why brands are so jaded about the whole process these days.

Fortunately, there are many ways to identify influencers in NetBase. When searching for influential folks in your category, brands can search by the number of followers and mentions, of course – but having them in context is super helpful – and necessary. This can eliminate lots of potential inflaters straight out of the gate:

influencer identification dashboard in NetBase to combat fake influencers

Understanding the trending terms and hashtags in your topic area helps you better understand the conversations that potential partners are having. Are their topics on point? Do they make sense for your vertical? Are there any contraindications – has a competitor already snapped them up?

digging in to trending conversations to help understand real vs fake influencers

During this process, you’ll likely uncover new intel to inform future marketing campaigns, which is always a bonus. Niche influencers and their super targeted followers have equally informative conversations around their likes and loves, with other potentially influential friends:

niche influencers and their audiences offer insight fake influencers can never replicate

And that’s exactly what you need to win this holiday season. No, not a “texting Santa” pillow (though it couldn’t hurt), but a contingent of micro-influencers engaging online on your behalf.

Reach out and we’ll help you zero in on your shortlist for a variety of segments. Super targeted micro-influencers to act as powerful, informative elves ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve!

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