Faking It: The dark side of influencer marketing #ipsyOpenStudios

Faking It: The dark side of influencer marketing


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OCT 12, 2017:

We’ve all been talking about fake news, but what about fake influencers?

‘Influencers have a fraud problem,’ writes Digiday. ‘Some social-media stars, typically those with 100,000 or fewer followers, are known to use bots to artificially inflate their engagement.’ Speaking candidly to an influencer in exchange for their anonymity, they reveal a darker side to the business of blogger marketing.

‘A few years ago, everyone was growing organically,’ explains the influencer. ‘After brands started paying for things, these people realized they can sell followers to people. The brands use these bots, too… I’ve had meetings with people, and they’ve mentioned that there are agencies that can help you grow your social media following. When you have to pay for it, it’s fake.’

Some brands are wising up and doing their research. Instagram also flags accounts which it suspects of gaining followers inorganically. But there are ways around this.

Marketing agency Mediakix recently conducted an investigation by creating their own phony Instagram influencer accounts – one was even populated full of posts made up of free-stock photos! They limited their follower purchases to 1,000 per day, but soon found they could buy up to 15,000 without being found out. The cost? Between $3-8 per 1,000 followers. They even bought engagement. High Snobiety reports it cost ‘around 12 cents per comment, and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes. For each photo, they purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 50 comments.’ Once they hit 10,000 followers, the accounts signed up for campaigns on various influencer-marketing platforms and were reimbursed with monetary compensation or free product.

While this kind of ad fraud is one problem taking jobs away from the content creators working really hard for a living, the influencer speaking to Digiday also highlights another business-driven issue: ‘With the algorithm, [the social-media channels] chose what they think you want to see… It sucks that you basically have this base that wants to see your work, and Facebook and Instagram say, “No, they’re not allowed to unless you pay.” I get why they’re doing it. They want the advertising dollars.’

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