A new study found that influencer fraud, such as buying followers or engagements, is on the rise and will cost advertisers
$1.3 billion in 2019
. That’s 15% of the estimated influencer marketing spend for the year, which is valued at
$8 billion by Mediakix
This is, unfortunately, just the latest industry where fraud is affecting marketers. A study by Juniper Research estimates that online advertisers lost $19 billion on fraudulent clicks last year. With the rise of over-the-top (OTT) video services such as Hulu, ad fraud has found a home there as well. Reports show that advertisers could lose up to $10 billion in 2020 due to fraudulent OTT spend.
Digital advertising is a booming business, with influencer marketing as the prominent newcomer. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that influencers are trying to find ways to increase the longevity and profitability of their career. Unfortunately, for some, that includes taking fraudulent measures. At our influencer agency, we believe in authentic connections, and delivering quality influencer campaigns is a pillar stone of our DNA. Based on the data we have available, we’ve optimized our influencer selection process to avoid paying for fraudulent results. How do we manage that?
Well, platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have long since put algorithms in charge of dictating which posts are shown to users. Because of this, only a percentage of followers actually see an influencer’s posts. Metrics such as follower count are therefore becoming fairly redundant and only serve as an indication when searching for influencers in the first stage of your campaign. An influencer with 50,000 followers can reach the same amount of people as an influencer with 250,000 followers. Because of this, it is imperative to always look at the actual impact of an influencer before you enter into a collaboration.
How concretely can you judge the quality of an influencer’s performance and avoid spending budget on fraudulent influencers? There are a plethora of criteria to take into account. Let’s go over the most important quantitative metrics we’ve identified at our agency. In addition to these performance-based criteria, you should also check the brand fit of an influencer on a qualitative level.
1. Actual Reach
As mentioned above, one of the first criteria to check when selecting influencers is their actual reach. How many times are their posts being viewed? If this number is less than 30% of their followers, then you might want to consider a different influencer.
Checking the actual reach allows you to avoid one of the pitfalls of fraud — influencers who have bought fake followers. These “followers” won’t actually see any posts, so they won’t be shown in the actual reach.
Within the Instagram algorithm, a higher percentage of actual impressions is a good first indication of favorability on the platform. It’s fully possible for an influencer’s impressions to be over 100% of their followers. Instagram’s “Explore” section is now so highly visited by users that Instagram is testing ad placements there. This section shows users what they are interested in from accounts they are not following. Some influencers do very well in this section, which extends their actual reach greatly.
Any influencer with an Instagram business account has access to their post performance. So, before working with a brand, an influencer should always share their actual reach stats (via a screenshot) with you so you can determine their value to your campaign. You should also be able to see the impressions that they are receiving on their latest posts, which will help determine if people are actually viewing the post. Additionally, you can determine an influencer’s actual reach by working with an influencer marketing agency and/or platform that has access to this Instagram data through the influencer.
2. Post Engagement
Together with the actual reach of the influencer, another quality check is their engagement. If an influencer generally receives less than 2% engagements vs. followers, they’re not performing well in the algorithm. These influencers might be in decline when it comes to relevance or because they’ve bought followers.
On the flip side, if an influencer’s engagements are greater than 20% of their impressions, this could be another red flag. Maybe this influencer has an incredibly loyal audience, frequently has content go viral or is buying engagements. When in doubt, check out the quality of the comments. Are they relevant comments from actual people or mainly emojis and one-worded exclamations?
3. Audience Demographics
Always check where your influencer’s audience is from. Do their audience demographics match your target audience? Does your influencer have followers in countries such as Ukraine, Brazil or Indonesia, despite having no connection to these countries? Markets such as these are major red flags for fake engagements and followers.
4. Longevity Of Influencer Positioning
Remember how I just said follower counts aren’t that relevant anymore? There are a few exceptions to that rule. A follower growth graph is an excellent way to spot whether an influencer has been buying fake followers or is generally in decline of relevance. If you see sudden spikes or drops in growth rate, then move along and work with another influencer.
Are you overwhelmed by all the criteria and nuances that make up an influencer quality check? I understand. However, if you want to ensure return on investment for your campaign, these checks are essential. Many influencer marketing agencies and platforms have a credibility score for influencers in place and can help you to ensure quality matches.
As a side note, each agency and platform has its own score in place, which takes different criteria into account. If you’re using an influencer platform to select your influencers, make sure to ask which criteria they take into account to calculate this fraud score.