The global Instagram influencer marketing industry, which is one of the biggest alongside YouTube, was worth $1.1 billion and will hit $2.9 billion+ in 2020, according to Statista.
I don't know about you but that's a lot of ad spend focused on an industry that's still in a period of steep growth, fake news, and ridden with 'persona fraud'. I can definitely see the attraction for brands to use so called 'influencers' particularly if they (the brand) operate in highly regulated industries, because by aligning themselves to the niche 'wannabe' celebrity influencer is not only good for cuedos, it also helps them to get messages across that they would normally be allowed to do.
In simple language, an influencer is someone whose story you are prepared to listen to, and maybe act upon, something we all do every day in real life.
The wonderful Mark Schaefer (click here) says why industries need to re-think how, and why brands are utilising 'influencers' along with the growth of a number of agencies whose sole focus is to provide brands with a stable of ready made influencers for them to collaborate with. He goes on to say;
When anything becomes profitable and popular, it’s bound to become corrupted. That’s the way the world works.
Over the last couple of years there have been a few high-profile SEC punishments of celebrities like DJ Khaled and even our influencer queen Kim Kardashian.
I don't know if your on Twitter, or Instaglam but if you are you will have seen all the spammy messages from all around the world with promises of building your 'follower' base for pennies, "We can take your followers to 100k people in a week" is the promise, and many people get caught out on both sides of this false and corrupt approach;
As an example have you ever heard of 'Amanda Smith and Alexa Rae?
No, neither have I but back in 2017 one clever (depends on your point of view I guess) influencer marketing shop says it secured brand sponsorship deals for two fictitious social media influencers, after acquiring a following for their Instagram accounts for less than $300 (£231).
The first account featured images from a one-day photo shoot with a model. She was depicted as a lifestyle and fashion-centric Instagramer with the username calibeachgirl310 aka Alexa Rae;
The second account was compiled almost entirely from free stock photos, with the persona of a travel and photography influencer called wanderingggirl, who shared mainly landscape photographs from scenic destinations aka 'Amanda Smith'
This is not new, it hasn't gone away, and there are brands who still get caught up in the appeal of influencers, however this exercise sums up how much is really going on in the crazy world of 'ad fraud'.
Mediakix (the agency) then bought fake followers for the accounts; initially at a rate of 1,000 per day, to avoid being flagged as suspicious by Instagram. However, they said they were later able to buy up to 15,000 at one time with no problems encountered.
Prices ranged from $3-$8 per 1,000 followers. Within two months, the travel account gathered 30,000 followers, and the fashion account 50,000.
The agency then started buying likes and comments, paying around 12 cents per comment, and $4-$9 per 1,000 likes. For each photo, Mediakix bought 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 50 comments, and engagement was scaled up as the follower count grew.
Once 10,000 followers were reached, Mediakix said it was able to sign up the accounts for new brand campaigns.
- Your feeding your brand ego by 'buying false followers' especially if your engagement levels stay the same. Your not only wasting your money, but most definitely your time.
- Your committing company fraud by investing in 'paid' promotional campaigns by an influencer because their profiles show they have 100's of thousands of followers, and you didn't do your due diligence.
- There are those that say the brand, company, or agency without any due diligence and social listening capabilities deserve to be ripped off.
Social Selling is about being authentic, and growing 'followers' is not something that can be bought, it has to be earned.
“You can’t necessarily count on Instagram to solve this fake follower program,” said Sean Spielberg, co-founder of Instascreener. “Fake followers and fake engagement is kind of like an arms race. When Instagram creates a new fancy algorithm to detect fraud, someone immediately begins working on ways to get around it,” he added. “Then fraud creeps up again. It won’t ever go to zero if brands and agencies wait for Instagram to solve the problem.”