How to Spot a Fake Instagram Influencer

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

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 hello@mutant.com.sg and we’ll talk.

*Disclaimer – Meltwater is a client of Mutant Communications, but this blog is not sponsored by them

3 things to note about influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is shaping up to be one of the most effective ways for businesses to get their message and products across. Scrolling through your Instagram feed, you see beautiful models wearing boutique swimwear in the Maldives, fitness junkies posing in new athletic gear or beauty gurus praising a new cosmetic product in a 20-second video. The likes and followers of these influencers are compelling enough for many companies to invest heavily. On the surface, influencer marketing may seem like a no-brainer, but we often see brands falling into common traps, doing more harm than good. Influencer marketing done right needs more than a pretty face with a decent following.

At the end of the day, influencer marketing is about your audience and your strategy to engage the right influencer. Before diving into sending out lots of DMs, there are some key things you should understand.

1. Is your brand the right fit?

Knowing your brand and field is the starting point for good influencer marketing. Although you can find influencers in almost every category, influencer marketing might not be a right fit for your brand. Take juice brand Marigold and influencer Naomi Neo’s fiasco last year, for example. The campaign fell apart, and criticism, mocking and parodies rolled in. Real influence comes from authenticity, but her caption stating she’s “always carrying around a carton of my favorite MARIGOLD PEEL FRESH juice” does not sound authentic at all. Naomi is a popular influencer in the lifestyle space with over 369k followers, but an influencer known for their healthy lifestyle, fitness or juicing recipes would have been a better fit for Marigold.

Although the beautiful brunette can sell swimwear and dresses, she might not be a good fit business. Depending on what category your business is in, you need to find the right influencers that can authentically represent your product.

When you get it wrong, the audiences may not be as receptive to the product. Hopping on the bandwagon with the assumption that influencer marketing is a sure way to achieve your goals can easily catch you out. It might even backfire and give you a negative reputation. Take a step back to consider who you are and what your brand stands for.

2. Numbers are not the be-all and end-all

It can be tempting to go with those influencers that have the largest following. However, don’t be seduced by the big numbers. Get over the obsession with followers – it’s a terrible representation of an influencer’s actual reach. Instead of mere follower size, you should also be looking at engagement rate and follower quality. Even users with a few hundred followers receive a couple of comments, so someone with hundreds of thousands of followers should also have a proportionate amount of comments. If this isn’t the case, it’s a sign the followers may be bought or are not engaged. Either way, it’s not beneficial for your brand.

To avoid the follower quality trap, scan the influencer’s followers to see if they are genuine. Look for inactive accounts with few posts or a vastly disproportionate amount of followers and accounts they follow. Be wary of comments like “love it!”, “super cool”, “Amazing :D” paired with random emojis that don’t seem aligned with the post. These are most likely bots that comment on behalf of accounts. Don’t be misled by such bot responses – genuine comments mean genuine followers.

3. Allow artistic freedom

Remember that influencer’s authenticity is key, so don’t treat them like a mercenary soldier if you want your campaign to really flourish. Avoid giving them strict criteria, providing a script or overseeing every single tiny detail. The influencers will know their audience better than you do, so let them inject their own unique voice and perspective into the project. Don’t be that brand that gets exposed when influencers simply copy and paste, forgetting to remove the instructions.

What you want instead, is to achieve a balance between micromanaging and giving complete artistic freedom. You want to ensure that the overall brand message is still relevant and aligned with your objectives while leaving room for the influencer’s creativity. Let them have the freedom to speak in their own voice that feels natural to their audience. Using an influencer to market your product should not indicate a lesser process strategy. The truth is that simply paying an influencer will not help you meet your business needs. The content creation process involving influencers can be a bit more complicated than typical campaigns. Prepare to put in the legwork to truly make an impact.

The key to effective and successful influencer marketing lies in building quality relationships with your audience. Choose influencers who resonate well with your brand image. Zero in on people aligned with your brand’s core values and stories. A great strategy involves a mix of influencers with both large and small followings.

 

Need help involving influencers for your brand? Drop us a note at hello@mutant.com.sg

Gen Z: Marketing to digital natives

While everyone is focused on getting the attention of millennials, the next generation (Z) is already having an impact on the media and PR industry. But who is this Generation Z and what sets them apart? Their behaviour online and the way they consume content will be a crucial indicator for what direction the PR and media world is moving towards. Here is how they are already changing the game.

Internet & social media generation

Generation Z could easily be renamed the internet & social media generation, as they not only grow up with the internet as their primary form of communication, but they are also the first generation to use social media and the internet from a very early age onwards. In 2015, 77% of 12–17- year-olds owned a mobile phone, which is reflected in the estimated 150,000 educational apps, 10% of Apple’s App Store, aimed at them. Generation Z isn’t just media-savvy, but ‘being online’ is a given for the generation of ‘digital natives’. This means that PR folks and marketers don’t just need to stay up-to-date with the latest digital and social media trends, they need to be ahead of the curve.

No more Facebook?

Talking to people who were born at the turn of the century, you will be surprised that, although they have a Facebook account, their chosen social media channels are in fact Instagram and Snapchat. While the Facebook feed still works to amplify articles and news from websites and brands, the content form must adapt to new social media platforms. To be sure, brands and media platforms are already experimenting with Snapchat and Instagram. Airbnb, for example, used an inspirational travel video series for their Instagram Stories to create awareness and buzz for the launch of Experiences on Airbnb.

 

However, given that both platforms display content only for a limited amount of time, PR and media must adapt to craft and develop impactful content to capture the attention of these younglings.

Skipping Ads

Inundated with content, this generation has done particularly well to filter out ads and sponsored content. Simply put, they won’t react to an ad, unless it benefits them and adds value to their lives. Marketers and PR folks need to be smarter with Generation Z, but shouldn’t try to outsmart them. Advertising and sponsored posts need to camouflage themselves into something that this generation wants to see.

Struggling traditional media

This lot has little regard for traditional media and are more likely to be consuming content on social media, blogs and YouTube. Showcasing your content natively on social media and working with trusted influencers can help to make inroads with Gen Z.

Long term investment

Despite skipping ads and filtering content that doesn’t interest them, Generation Z tends to be more loyal than the generation that came before them. As Gen Z consumers stay loyal to the brands they shop at and are more likely to stick with them throughout their lives, it’s still worth making the investment as a brand.

Although the content they consume tends to be very short-lived, the investment of brands and PR agencies will be long-term. This is good news for everyone, as customer acquisition is becoming more important and might have longevity – despite constantly changing consumer behaviours.

 

Like what you’ve read? Drop a note at hello@mutant.com.sg to talk about how to make your brand ready for the next generation. 

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Finding the right social media influencer for your brand

In this day and age of social media, the rise of influencers can no longer be ignored. Social media influencers are often a powerful channel for driving engagement. Perhaps, a personal touch is just what a potential consumer needs to make a decision. In this blog, we’ll take you through the definition of social media influencer marketing and how to best use this for your business.

What is social media influencer marketing?

According to GroupHigh, social media influencer marketing is the practice of building relationships with the people who can build relationships for you. Influencers are basically your bridge to a whole new pool of end-users. No matter the size of the following, these influencers will be able to help you reach consumers via their social networks and blogs that your brand may not be able to.

As you can see from this little diagram by Affinio, target your audience through various influencers who share the same following.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.30.37 am

From finding the right influencer for your brand to having them represent you, you will need to identify them, market to them, market through them, and then market with them. Here’s how:

  1. Identifying influencers – rank them in order of importance and relevance.
  2. Marketing to influencers – increase awareness of the brand amongst influencers.
  3. Marketing through influencers – using influencers to increase market awareness.
  4. Marketing with influencers – turn influencers into brand ambassadors.

Why social media influencer marketing?

Because a whopping 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations and only 33% trust advertisements!

In the eyes of the consumer, a social media influencer is that cool kid in high school and whatever he or she is into is the next cool thing. Most importantly, there is an authenticity and trustworthiness that comes with your influencer’s recommendation that advertisements lack.

How to get into social media influencer marketing?

Develop and build your relationships with the social media influencers that you think will best represent your brand and reach your target audience. Simply drop them an email with what you have in mind for your collaboration. Here’s how to find the right influencer for your brand:

  • Find an influencer who is pretty much already an ambassador

That means that the influencer’s content is already aligned with your brand’s message. Look through an influencer’s archived content to find out what kind of consumer they are.

  • Engagement vs. reach

Your choice of influencer should not only be able to reach a great number of your target audience, but should also be able to engage them to respond, comment and share. The relationship between your influencer and his/her readers should be meaningful and not just superficial.

  • Look out for authentic and organic content

The more organic the content, the more likely your target audience is to trust his/her recommendation.

The key is to find a social media influencer that allows for a mutually beneficial relationship. And don’t forget, a great relationship between your brand and your influencer of choice will definitely make activating your marketing goals more seamless and effective!

Need help with your social media? Drop a message to hello@mutant.com.sg 

 

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