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How to tackle influencer fraud

Influencer marketing has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last few years with brands and social media celebrities working together. But gatecrashers who want a slice of the action are sneaking into the mix.

How the food and beverage industry is using social media influencers, bitcoin, the dark web

As the influencer marketing sector matures, 'influencer fraud' is a growing concern for brands who are becoming be more cautious when selecting influencers they plan to work with.

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It is a hyper-competitive climate, meaning that marketers are constantly looking for new ways to increase their business.

Influencers have a low cost per engagement, compared to social advertising, and many marketers use influencers to spread their message for them.

Brands are using nano and micro influencers in their marketing activities.

Micro influencers will write branded posts for a low cost per post, and companies such as Open Influence, and HypeFactory, have tools -- some that use AI -- that can identify the correct micro-influencers for campaigns.

Influencers' authentic tone, creativity and visuals make for fantastic marketing collateral. However, fake accounts, likes, and comments flood social channels such as Instagram as influencers jostle to be noticed by brands with big budgets.

Influencer fraud is a growing issue in an industry worth over $1 billion which means that the market is ripe for fraudsters to take advantage of influencer popularity.

The pretenders can see there is money and profile to be gained, and are willing to go to elaborate lengths to be included.

Marketers can take steps to spot whether their potential influencers are authentic or not. CEO of influencer marketing platform Takumi Mats Stigzelius has shared some insight on influencer fraud -- and how to tackle it.

He said that most marketers know that some influencers use bots or manual follow on / follow off techniques to increase their audience, or generate fake engagement using online tools and programs.

He noticed that recently there has been a rise in Instagram 'pods' -- groups of up to 50 Instagrammers that work with each other to comment and like each other's posts.

He reckoned that this could either be a show of support among a group of like-minded influencers, or an attempt to hack Instagram by driving up engagement on certain posts.

Unfortunately there remains no real industry consensus on which tactics constitute influencer fraud and which do not.

So what can brands do to combat the issue and ensure they get the most out of their influencer campaigns?

Strict influencer vetting is important. Marketers who identify their own influencers will need to stringently evaluate each one, looking for signs of influencer fraud.

There is almost no way to spot influencer fraud using automated checks or systems alone, to get the best results, marketers must carry out a manual review.

This means looking for suspicious activity, such as excessively high or low engagement rates, or spikes in follower growth due to automated bots. Watch for hashtag use, post and content quality, and volume of posts.

Influencer's follower counts should be checked to avoid suspicious activity. The audience should grow consistently. Significant spikes in the following number could mean that the account is relying on follow-backs to boost its audience.

Although influencer fraud will probably never be completely eradicated, marketers can be vigilant when hiring new influencers. Since audience authenticity is one of the underlying strengths and principles of influencer marketing, it is crucial for companies to address the issue.

There will always be those that try to game the system, but re-evaluating and reviewing influencers will ensure that every influencer you work with is the best fit for your campaign.

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