Ever bought an outfit, switched to a new skincare routine, or experimented with a health supplement all because a reasonably famous stranger on Instagram told you to do so? That’s the kind of power some individuals on social media wield over the masses – and their powers of persuasion haven’t gone unnoticed by brands striving to stand out.
Advertisers are increasingly relying upon social media content creators, especially those native to Instagram, to help drive awareness for their products and business. Popular with teens and young adults who are digital natives, Instagram content creators – AKA influencers – hold considerable sway over their audience, who are likely to follow their recommendations and advice seriously, and attempt to emulate their lifestyle.
To hook this younger audience, brands often look for influencers with large followings – after all, numbers speak to brands. Thus, the higher the follower count, the more likely it is for an influencer to be courted with partnerships, endorsements, and collaborations. Unsurprisingly, learning about this system has led some greedy individuals to resort to unscrupulous methods of increasing follower count while offering little substantive content in return.
Because marketing, and especially digital marketing often relies on agility and speed, executives operating under tight deadlines may not have the luxury of properly vetting the follower lists and accounts of the influencers they choose to work with. However, not implementing strict quality checks does not bode well for brands, as working with fake influencers will dilute brand reputation. Additionally, it will lead to wasted marketing dollars spent on reaching bots instead of real people.
If you or your brand are looking to engage influencers, here is a handy guide on how to weed out dubious social media personalities:
Famous nearly overnight
Did the influencer in question start at the bottom with a humble number of followers, but now boasts of tens of thousands of followers nearly overnight – without having committed any notable acts of internet notoriety? Whatever caused the follower count to skyrocket is a mystery that no one can attribute to anything the person posted, leaving you to only guess. To discern whether a following is legitimate or not, use social media tracking tools, which allow you to check the number of followers gained over time. If there a sudden spike that cannot be explained, it’s likely the extra followers were purchased. Another tactic that several fake influencers employ is the “follow-unfollow” ploy, which involves following people and then immediately unfollowing them once they have followed back.
Quality of comments
If the comments on an influencer’s post consist mostly of generalised compliments with dubious grammar or entirely of emojis, they are probably generated by hundreds of bot accounts. While they might seem genuine upon first glance, a few comments repeating the same variation of “great job”, “keep it up”, and “wow” are a tell-tale sign of non-human interaction. Spam accounts also often post comments begging for likes or follows on their own page, and may even ask you to check out a link on their bio (you are strongly advised not to do this as you might be redirected to a compromised website). So how do you know when comments are genuine? Look for positive and negative feedback, or people tagging their friends and interacting with them on the post itself.
Engagement rates are one of the primary metrics marketers look for when choosing influencers to partner with. While the “magic number” for influencer engagement rates differs from company to company, 1-3% seems to be the generally accepted figure. On the part of the influencers, factors such as type, timing, and frequency of posts also play a role in how often followers interact with their content. If an influencer with a massive following (in the tens of thousands or more) attract a paltry sum of likes (10-20) per post or has a low engagement rate, their follower base definitely consists of bots. For exact figures, tools such as SocialBlade will automatically generate a report card detailing an influencer’s overall ranking, grade, and engagement rates. For more extensive campaigns, brands can also consider tools like Meltwater’s* Social Influencers discovery tool that has more in-depth analytics tools that break down an account’s demographics, interests and other metrics
Quality of followers
To gain a better idea of the influencer’s target audience, look at the kinds of accounts that follow them. Right off the bat, you’ll be able to tell if the accounts are suspect or not. For example, if the accounts have random strings of letters and numbers for names, then it is safe to assume they are spam accounts. Accounts like these be can bought by the thousands for a small sum of money, so if an influencer’s following is impressive, but consists mostly of these types of accounts, they’re probably not the real deal.
Social media presence outside of Instagram
While this might sound counterintuitive, it is not uncommon for influencers to maintain a presence across multiple social media sites. If they are experts in their niche (beauty, fashion, art, design, food, travel) check to see if they have been featured in magazines and newspapers. If they are genuine content creators, it’s likely they will have worked with other influencers, brands and companies. Keep an eye out for any public events they might attend, such as launch parties, interviews or television shows. If these “influencers” are virtually ghosts outside of the colourful pastiche that is Instagram, alarm bells should be sounding off in your head.
By following these guidelines, you should be able to determine if an influencer is legitimate or not. Fingers crossed the ones you have shortlisted are, and that you get to work with them!
Need help finding a popular face to better reach your Gen Z customers? Just say ‘hi’ at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk.
*Disclaimer – Meltwater is a client of Mutant Communications, but this blog is not sponsored by them