Instagram influencer marketing is exploding in popularity -- but watch out for fraud

Instagram is leading the way with influencer sponsored posts with a significant rise over the last year.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

In 2018, Instagram reached one billion monthly active users and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Its visual content, and engaged communities, show that Instagram is a key marketing channel for brand-influencer collaborations. But is it a safe bet for your marketing dollars?

Tel Aviv, Israel-based Influencer marketing platform Klear's, State of Instagram Influencer Marketing Report 2019 shows that Instagram influencer marketing is growing fast.

The company analyzed 2,113,307 Instagram sponsored feed posts that included #ad hashtags between Jan 1-Dec 31, 2018.

It discovered that the market has increased in 2018 by 39 percent compared to 2017.

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Influencers are adopting new tools to create more engaging content with Instagram Stories leading the way. One in three Instagram sponsored posts is now an Instagram Story.

In 2018, 400 million people viewed Instagram Stories every day, meaning a great opportunity for influencer adoption. Unedited Instagram Stories seem to be a more authentic and engaging way for influencers to connect with their followers.

But it is not all about the major influencers.  Micro-influencers posted 84 percent of sponsored posts worldwide.

Micro-influencers tend to be highly valued and trusted by their followers. Micro-influencers offer quality over quantity -- with highly engaged, targeted communities instead of casual followers.

Brands tend to prefer Micro-influencers over celebrities with the majority of sponsored feed posts receiving up to 1,000 likes per post. Women, Micro-influencers and Millennials continue to dominate Instagram, posting the highest number of sponsored posts.

Instagram influencer marketing is exploding in popularity - but watch out for fraud ZDNet

But if brands want to utilise influencers for their marketing campaigns, they do need to be wary of influencers who buy followers, or provide fraudulent information to a brand or an agency in order to participate in a given program.

When many influencers participate in this form of deception, it causes overall influencer marketing fraud and brands are unable to see success from their programs.   

New York, NY-based Influencer marketing agency Socialyte expects influencer fraud to continue to be a major issue for the industry throughout 2019.

Also: Seven days of Instagram: Mixed results from a short push to increase engagement 

So what do brands need to look out for when deciding which influencers to use for programs? The six primary red flags are:

  1. Low reach or views in Stories compared to others with similar followings.
  2. Large ad to organic content ratio. 
  3. Too many non-engaged comments such as lots of emojis, many comments from the same person which indicates they are buying engagement.
  4. The same number of likes or comments on every photo. Authentic accounts have a variety of engagement across posts
  5. High following with super low engagement – perhaps consistently below one percent.
  6. Large, or sudden increases or decreases in follower count tracked over time. Suspect influencers may quickly regain their following due to buying the amount of followers needed to recover their follower count after their bots are removed by Instagram.

Even though Facebook and Instagram have been purging fake accounts for some time, brands still need to be vigilant before spending marketing dollars to reach influencer's followers that vanish as the fake follower purge continues.

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