Fashion influencer fraud is a troubling trend in the industry. Brands need to know how to spot fake fashionistas or they’re putting their brand – and marketing dollars – at risk.
Currently costing brands more than one billion each year, fashion influencer fraud is big business. Here’s what you need to know:
Fake Fashionistas Put on a Fabulous Show
In the rush to capture sponsorships, many ‘could’ve been the real deal’ influence fakes have created impressive social accounts using black hat tactics. Here are the top four sneak attacks to be on the lookout for:
Fake follower farms
Years ago, many felt there was no real harm in inflating your social network numbers. Today we know better. Fake influencers know better as well and have upped the ante on how it’s done. The fake accounts following these folks look real and can withstand a spot check – but they can’t escape an in-depth sentiment analysis.
Fake influencer farms
Who knew farming would be so lucrative in this digital age? Fake influencer farms are where you’ll see influencers for sale. And although many listed are quite influential, they are often influence generalists and you require a specialist for your brand. Even global, massively large brands could use the touch of specialized influence. Although celebrity influencers are sure to help any cause, engaging with your audience where you demonstrate understanding of its specific needs is best for long-term growth. You’re relationship building with the help of influencers. At least you are if you’re doing it right.
Many fakes use follow-for-follow automation bots to inflate their numbers with what seems to be genuine people. And they are! These folks have been duped by automated bots that follow other users en masse, and then unfollow them a few days later. This enhances the fakers following/follower ratios, making them appear popular.
The bots also comment with generalized “looking good” or “love this!” posts. Many times, these comments stand out as they don’t make a ton of sense. But, as mentioned about fake follower farms, the bots are learning and getting better at what they do, so it’s become harder to spot. Evaluating a following based on comment data alone won’t cut it!
Probably the most insidious and convincing social proof they put out there is around “influencer work” they’re currently being paid to do. Many will pretend to have sponsorship deals with other brands when they really do not.
This is coming to an end soon – at least on Instagram, where its Creator accounts give brands the option to only allow tags they accept. Other channels will likely follow suit, depending on how this pans out.
Social Listening Combined with Analytics Uncovers Influencer Fraud
Social listening captures relevant intel around these influencers in relation to your brand and the fashion industry in general. And social analytics examines their targeted engagement – closely. It reveals who is capturing the conversation and the engagement they are (or aren’t) creating.
For example, here’s a chart of retail brand Zara’s influencers from the NetBase Holiday Retail Best Practices Guide:
You can see all of these influencers have exceptionally engaged followings, with Kanika Mann offering an amazing level of engagement per post, even with fewer Followers and Engagements over all. This is an important distinction to take into account when it comes to influencer impact for your brand.
By how do you find these folks?
Brands can explore the Fashion conversation stream for clues around what people are talking about in the category and potentially stumble upon some influencers there. The stream is mostly great for moment-in-time conversation snapshots to keep you in tune with your audience though:
To get more specific, look to positive and negative Attributes shared online:
And explore people associated with various items. For example, “fashion namjoon” is from a K-Pop band fan account – and artist, with a super engaged, fashionable following:
Not only on Twitter, but Instagram as well. A brand targeting Millennials – or Gen Z – might consider a partnership here:
Or by looking at the Authors Widget, that captures people posting about your topic and organizes it by Count, Followers/Visitors and Total Engagements. There’s also Sound Bite data to give you a preview of what they posted to deserve inclusion in the list:
And you can also see where in the world these conversations are happening, as you may want an influencer on the ground in that location to promote your brand at events.
While lots of influencers travel the world, it’s a safe assumption that you can find a micro-influencer or two with robust follower counts and the drive to succeed. Influencers are everywhere . . .
And then, of course, once you’ve partnered with an influencer, you’ll have even more access to what they post and the post, comment, like and other data – from all social web channels:
This will allow you to very finely monitor how well your message is resonating with their audiences. And if a change needs to be made.
Sometimes it just requires a tweak in messaging on your end – other times it’s an influencer mismatch. Either way, you’ll know and have data to back it up.
Don’t Go in to Influencer Partnerships Blind
There are some genuine influencers taking up residency on influencer farms, by the way. They use it as a promotional tool – a way for brands that aren’t hip to social intelligence to find them. And many do. But short of the ability to vet authenticity, brands would have the same odds finding the real deal by closing their eyes and clicking on influencers at random.
Reach out and we’ll make the process much more precise – and profitable – for your brand.