Brands are depending more and more on influencers and influencer promoted content to drive sales. In fact, a recent a report by TAKUMI Whitepaper found that 73% of marketers in the US, UK, and Germany have allocated more spend to influencer marketing in the last 12 months than any other marketing channel.

For this reason, influencer engagement stats are increasingly important yet many brands express concerns about ‘fake influencers’ – who are quite literally inflating their influence.

Recent research by LINK has found that a whopping 49% of Instagram influencers have committed so-called “follower fraud” – with buying fake followers the most common example. Authentic stats are crucial as brands who unknowingly collaborate with fake influencers or influencers with fake majority numbers, could have detrimental consequences for their reputations and budgets.

If you’re wondering why an influencer would buy followers, it has a lot to do with the opportunities that are brought to them. One of my friends has some of the best TikTok engagement I’ve ever seen and now makes a very comfortable living as a TikTok influencer. She has around 430k followers and her videos get around 200-300,000 views on average with the odd humorous video going viral and receiving a couple million. Social media specialist Tribe revealed through a study that influencers with 3-10k followers earn between £50-100 a post, compared to influencers with 100k+ followers that earn over £350 a post. My friend earns around £800 per TikTok when in partnership with big brands like Zalando. So, you guessed it, the bigger the following the higher the price. 

If a brand works with someone like my friend who has an organic following they’re guaranteed attention. However, working with fake influencers on the other hand can have a detrimental effect on brands for a few reasons. According to recent research from The Times, Instagram fraudsters are conning brands out of more than $200m a year. If a brand is investing in a campaign with a fake influencer who doesn’t have a genuine following, then any branded content the influencer creates is meaningless and unlikely to yield the desired results. In essence, phoney influencers diminish a brand’s ROI. Alongside this, brands are investing heavily in social commerce. Our whitepaper revealed that 62% of marketers agree that social commerce is going to be the most popular objective for influencer marketing campaigns within the next year.

Brands also risk damaging their reputation. If a brand works with an untrustworthy influencer that has bought their followers, then it’s likely they could also end up misrepresenting the brand, and their bad image could ‘rub off’, as well as making the brand look like they haven’t done their due diligence. How to navigate these challenges Brands need to do their due diligence and ensure they’re identifying and working with real influencers that really help, rather than hinder, their chances of campaign success.

As a solution, bot-detecting tools, such as GRIN, are also starting to emerge. These tools identify and track suspicious or unusual follower behaviour. Although it’s promising to see that measures are being put in place to eliminate fake accounts , brands should be aware that each tool has varying levels of reliability meaning that some are better than others at detecting fake followers.

Such tools are not always necessary and brands should be savvy about influencer legitimacy without tech. For example, if an influencer has a lot of followers, yet hardly any follower engagement, then this is a red flag and brands should avoid engaging in a partnership with them. 

Fake followers are on the rise and pose a serious issue to brands if the vetting process and brand value alignment is properly probed. If brands recognise these challenges and equip themselves to navigate them, then they’re likely to develop successful influencer-brand partnerships that deliver the best campaign results.

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