What Exactly Is Influencer “Fraud”?
When people hear the word fraud, they usually think about financial fraud, or personal fraud and influencer fraud is not much different.
Essentially, influencer fraud is the theft of something sacred in the influencer community — the ability to convey genuine interest, emotion and experiences.
Authentic influencers take time to build their communities, especially since most of them start with followers they know personally. Sometimes, they get started by creating a blog or by posting videos on YouTube, and then they move over to other social platforms.
Their rise to influencer fame came from them sharing their genuine experiences with other people interested in their life and overall journey. People found their content, liked what they saw and started following them, and, boom, they became an influencer.
The critical difference between real and fake influencers is the ability to create relevant creative content. Influencer fraud is just that, a scam. It’s a fraudulent display of what we assume to be authentic.
Now that you know that let’s get into how to spot influencer fraud from a mile away.
Why Fake Accounts Exist
All you need to start as a phony influencer and start making money online is money and some medium-quality photos.
After that, all it takes is buying followers and likes. Some fraudulent influencers find this extremely lucrative since they mostly get paid to market products to a ghost audience.
Fake accounts don’t exist only for the sake of scamming others but to create money where there wouldn’t necessarily be any.
Creating fake accounts is the last resort for someone desperate to gain followers and notoriety on social media platforms.
3 Signs of Influencer Fraud
Influencer fraud is not only annoying but costly.
Brands spend thousands every day on influencers that don’t have genuine communities. Even worse, sometimes consumers, with less money than brands, spend tons of money listening to what these fraudulent influencers say.
Don’t be discouraged; there are ways to spot these dishonest tendencies. It’s not too difficult to detect influencer fraud, especially when you look for the right things.
Here are some signs of influencer fraud:
A Sharp Rise in Followers
Now, this is a tough one because some influencers do garner overnight success, but usually after going “viral” on at least one platform.
Most times, depending on who you are and what your proximity to social media is, you’ll know the difference between a viral rise, and a fraudulent one.
If the account is a scam, you’ll know, especially because many of their followers don’t make sense. If the timeline doesn’t make sense, and the followers don’t make sense, then you should conclude that an influencer is fraudulent.
Little to No engagement?Another sign that an influencer is fake is by their engagement rates. An influencer having hundreds of thousands of followers doesn’t always equate to high engagement, but the numbers should still make sense. If you see an influencer with thousands of followers and the like to follower ratio is below 1%, they are probably a fake influencer. The median engagement rate on Instagram is about 3%. This information means that if an influencer has 100,000 followers, about 3,500 should like and comment on their posts. Sometimes, fake influencers join an automated engagement group. This paid service allows the influencer to put up a post and get likes from real people on different platforms. Depending on the size of the network, some fake influencers will get hundreds of likes and comments that look genuine.
Comments: Are They Honest? Real?Some fake influencers know the game of influencing well and understand that buying followers isn’t the end of the journey to fake stardom. These days, most influencers also buy comments. The comments are often hard to notice as artificial, mainly since many people use them as an indicator of what’s real and what’s not. One way to know that comments are fake is to look at their content and whether those comments relate to the content. If an “influencer” has posted about a product and the comments don’t reflect anything about the product, you should assume that the comments are fake. Another thing to look out for is whether the comments are from the same group of people. This is a tricky one because the same group of friends could be commenting for support, so you’ll need to do some digging. See if the group that’s always discussing aligns with the content that the influencer creates. If not, they are probably fake.
How Do Influencer “Buy” Fake Followers?
There are a few different ways to gain fake followers. Many fake influencers have a list of steps they follow to increase their counterfeit pages.
The first stage is purchasing followers. The algorithm depends on the system they use, but most people buy about 1500-3500 per day for as long as they want to “grow.”
This technique creates an account with 100K rather quickly. Sometimes, they’ll also use an automated growth machine, which helps draws in around 300-500 followers per day by engaging with different profiles every day.
Due to this engagement with other accounts, their account begins to attract real, sometimes organic, followers.
Content Matters!The tricky thing about being a fake influencer is that they still have to showcase real things about their life. The problem is that there’s no real life to live. Fake influencers typically aren’t going on real vacations or cooking in their kitchens or hanging with friends. All they want is the recognition they know will lead to money. One straightforward way to spot a fake influencer is to check out the content they post. Do the photos have high quality or do they look bland, almost like a stock photo? If so, you can bet the influencer isn’t genuine or real at all.
How to Protect Your Brand From Influencer FraudNow that you know how to spot influencer fraud, let’s talk about how to protect your brand and consumers. The best way to protect your brand is to have a meticulous vetting process when attempting to work with influencers. It’s important to verify everything before you agree to work with them. Does the influencer’s story match yours? Do they even have a story? Do they have a long history of posting on social media or did the just rise to “fame?” Depending on your goals as a brand, you may want to think about using an influencer marketing platform that helps influencers and brands connect. An influencer platform will show you how many followers an influencer has and whether they are legit. Most platforms keep track of how well an influencer is doing and what they have to offer. Most platforms will also display how many followers the influencer has gained or lost. These platforms can show you how well an influencer engages with their audience. More importantly, influencer platforms take an extra step and ensure that their influencers are verified, meaning they are not fake. Here are some other steps you can follow to ensure that your rand doesn’t work with a fraudulent influencer.
Step 1: Check their trafficMany authentic Instagram influencers with thousands of followers are famous with reason. This information means that they didn’t just pop up onto the influencer scene for no reason. They either did something that caused them to go viral, or they’ve been working for a long time. Most genuine influencers will have a link to their website or relevant information in their Instagram, Twitter, or Youtube bio. Check online for more information about them before choosing to work with them. Very few influencers exist only on Instagram, which makes sense for those wanting to grow their following. It’s essential to keep that in mind as you move forward. A Google search goes a long way in the influencer business, but it’s not the end all, be all. If you’re planning on spending a good amount of money, it’s essential to ask for reviews before working with an influencer. This action will help you keep the frauds away from you. It’s all too easy for a fake influencer to create false information about themselves. So, being thorough is essential. Look for evidence of this person working with other influencers.
Step 2: Check Content Consistency
An essential way of spotting fake influencers is by checking the content they post, and how consistently they post.
Now, this is not to say that all influencers need to post ALL the time. Some influencers only post once a month and have high engagement with their followers. Fake accounts often gain followers overnight, and post a massive amount of times and then become silent for a long while.
They tend to post for the sake of visibility rather than engagement, which is a big red flag.
Step 3: Promotion track record
Another insightful measure to look through is their past paid sponsorships.
You’ll find these posts have the #ad, #spon or #sponsored hashtags. Looking through this content is essential because you’ll be able to see which brand this influencer has worked with and whether it feels authentic or not.
Look to see if they are consistent with their message as an influencer. An influencer looking to create a community won’t spam followers with content that doesn’t align with what makes sense for them.
Real followers know when an influencer pushes every affiliation that comes their way and seems fraudulent. Successful influencers select brands that align with their community and their overall message. Products they promote must enhance their community.
This management of paid content is a great way to see whether someone is credible.
Step 4: Do they understand the influencer game?
Before working with an influencer, it’s crucial to have a conversation with them about their community.
If they are authentic, they should already know what their followers want. Most importantly, they should care about what their followers want. If an influencer is hung up on posting selfie after selfie without much thought, they probably don’t care much about what their audience is thinking.
An influencer that cares won’t go on and on about themselves and themselves only. Most great influencers engage with their community in new ways that make the community feel included. They’ll know it’s not only about them.
A clear sign of an authentic influencer is their understanding of their audience. They probably also have high engagement levels with them and probably have done a meet up or two before.
An influencer that doesn’t attend to their audience won’t understand the influencer market at all, which is a critical indicator that they’re fraudulent.
Step 5: Follower location
The reason to check geographic location is fundamental.
If your potential influencer is a person based in America, but the majority of their followers live in China, there’s a high chance that they bought followers.
However, it’s essential to know that that’s not, especially as digital media begins to travel across state and country lines. It’s very easy to have a demographic of people that follow you and don’t relate to you demographically.
At that point, it’s crucial to understand how an influencer’s audience, no matter their demographic, engages with them.
If the engagement looks bleak, then it’s safe to assume it’s not as honest as you think.