Hop on Instagram any second of the day and immediately one can be dazzled by sparkling images, filled with beautiful people whose profile glimmers with gold. These images make up the profiles that promise strong ROI’s.
If only influencer marketing were as simple as a nice, neat, high follower count. 1.2M sounds so sweet but doesn’t tell the entire story.
Alongside the hard-working influencers who have been building their personal brands since the beginning of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, we have also witnessed the rise of fake accounts, most of them undetectable to the naked eye. Computer-programmed bots follow these accounts through a paid service – filler accounts which systematically increase a wanna-be influencer’s numbers, superficially boosting their social klout.
No one seemed to think this was that much of an issue until influencer marketing grew into a multi-billion dollar industry.
The success of an influencer marketing campaign is predicated on a carefully selected group of influencers, and the danger of choosing a “fake” influencer is very real. Does it really matter if you hire an influencer who has built their following through so-called “fake” measures – meaning they have purchased their followers? How can you work to identify those influencers who have created an authentic online presence and audience vs. those who have an entirely inauthentic image and following?
This article will explore these questions and help you identify authentic vs. “fake” influencers. The next time you run an influencer campaign, be sure to follow this guideline so that you don’t fall into the trap of hiring influencers who have nothing to offer your audience and will waste your time and money.
How to Identify Fake vs. Real Influencers
- Dazzling images do not make a dazzling influencer.
Content is not what it used to be. For influencers to gain social klout, many go to great lengths to win notoriety, popularity, loyal audience, and engagement. Influencers are not born, they are made, and the “making” often requires professional assistance in areas like photography, makeup, fashion, and more.
The good news? Influencers who see their social media stardom as a professional undertaking are the ones worth investing your brand’s time and money.
On the contrary, people build social media profiles that look the part, dress the part, and even seem to act the part, but miss the mark by a long shot. Why? Many of these profiles create fake images that don’t even feature real people. They buy fake followers for filler and social proof, rather than real engagement. Some of the most beautiful images on platforms like Instagram are inauthentic, and the entire profile is built on a facade that could crumble in a moment.
- Audience matters.
When searching for the ideal influencers to promote your brand’s message, be sure their audience will care what you have to say. For example, if the ideal audience of a restaurant specializing in high-end plant-based foods is the luxury vegan dining customer base, this is a niche audience. It’s crucial to identify influencers whose audience isn’t just interested in five-star dining or healthy eating in general. There are influencers whose mission is to live a plant-based lifestyle and who have built a loyal following because of their dedication to this highly focused vision.
For this niche high-end plant based restaurant, it would be worth taking the time to uncover influencers whose mission is to live a plant-based lifestyle, and who have built a loyal following because of their dedication to this highly focused vision.
- Authentic engagement sells.
Influencers who take the time to engage (read = message and respond in a genuine manner) with their followers are the ones to hire for influencer campaigns. Why does authenticity matter so much? The more “real” an influencer appears, the more effective influencer marketing can be, and man it sure can be:
- 43% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it on social media (Nielsen)
- 81% of people said they are influenced by what their friends share on social media (Market Force)
- 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people – even if they don’t know them personally (Nielsen)
- 49% of consumers rely on influencers when looking for product recommendations. (Twitter)
- 59% of micro-influencers find Instagram the most effective social media platform to engage their target audience. (Blogovin)
When you run across influencers on blogs or social media whose content seems canned, trust your gut – it probably is. It’s easy enough to pay others to write that content and create an image of a “brand” (influencers are brands themselves, after all) minus the substance. There are profiles on Instagram that contain images of women who do not exist because our photo editing technology is just that good. Be ware and do your research.
Going Gold: Will the Real Influencers Please Stand Up?
The influencer marketing industry is slated to become aindustry within the next five years. You wouldn’t bet your money on something or someone that doesn’t exist, would you? Obviously not. Where can you turn to find the golden influencers amongst the rubble?
- Know your customer inside-out
- Research influencers’ followers: evaluate their social media profiles and validate to whom you will be selling
- Through this research, identify influencers whose audience matches your customer avatar
- This research will also disqualify influencers whose audiences are buffered by bots, or fake accounts
- Reach out to an influencer marketing agency for support: they are connected to the authentic influencers on a professional level and can communicate with them if you can’t reach your list.