Aug 24, 2018

The real fakes on Instagram

Influencer marketing isn’t going away anytime soon – a recent survey commissioned by The Exposure Co found that almost 40% of Australian consumers are more likely to purchase a product endorsed by a blogger or influencer.

Real Fakes on Instagram

In this new era of consumer and audience engagement, influencers blur the boundaries to connect our clients with their target audiences, as “friends” and in a trusted space.

We recommend clients tap into these trusted and authentic voices, as a holistic approach in amplifying their brand messages.

But what happens when they aren’t as authentic as they say they are?

In the jungle that is influencer marketing, there are a host of shady practices that some influencers use to “build their brand” – this includes purchasing followers, comments and likes.

As an experiment, I downloaded a third-party app and for a mere 99 cents, I purchased likes. Here’s what I learnt –

  • What’s for purchase: Not only could I buy likes and followers, I could also purchase views and ‘golden followers,’ who are less likely to unfollow you
  • Gamification encourages more purchases: ‘Coins’ for purchase at discounted and flash sale rates encourage users to engage more often – these can then be used to buy the likes and followers
  • Likes or followers are not just from bot or ghost accounts: Some are authentic Instagram accounts. On similar apps, there is a function to ‘earn coins’ by liking or following other accounts who have just paid for likes or follows. This peppers real accounts in amongst bots to make engagement appear more authentic – and makes our job scoping authentic engagement more difficult

What engagement did I achieve with an app?

For 99 cents, I garnered over 300 likes across different posts – and then rapidly received additional likes on these posts taking the total closer to 500 (I assume this is the result of an overshoot from the ‘earn coins’ function.)

What does this teach us?

Invest in investigating

We need to be vigilant when assessing influencer authenticity (including those in influencer marketplaces), diving deeper into post engagement before committing to a partnership. This should not stop at calculating influencer engagement percentage.

Tools like Social Blade can help – it allows you to enter any Instagram (or YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and Dailymotion) business handle to track the rate of followers – uncovering a sudden influx would indicate a bought audience.

Find authenticity – and ways to capture its impact

As advocates for our clients and for the ‘right’ message, we must continue to look for influencers with a genuine affinity for our client or their product/cause. A genuine connection will resonate with and engage their audience.

Creating trackable links through link management platforms such as Bitly makes it easy to report on audience engagement. This also ensures that click-throughs from influencer posts to brand content or point-of-sale are authentic.

All mediums have their challenges

We need to see authenticity as just a challenge of the platform – influencer marketing is a competitive space and the aspiration of getting paid to post beautiful content leads to short cuts. But if we understand the influencer environment, we are better equipped to scope and recommend the right talent.

As we continue to use influencer marketing, consider that some of the greatest brand advocates may have a smaller but more authentic and engaged audience.