Follower Fraud: Stopping The Latest Scare In Its Tracks

The following is a guest contributed post from Harvey Schwartz, SVP Talent at WHOSAY. Digital advertising has been plagued by fraud, brand safety and transparency issues for years. These similar issues are appearing to infect influence marketing. Fortunately, I believe that these problems won’t have...

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The following is a guest contributed post from Harvey Schwartz, SVP Talent at WHOSAY.

Digital advertising has been plagued by fraud, brand safety and transparency issues for years. These similar issues are appearing to infect influence marketing. Fortunately, I believe that these problems won’t have the same impact on influencer campaigns as they do on the programmatic landscape.

Sure, fraud in the form of bots and fake followers poses a threat to trust in social influence, and mostly for those that believe in simply tapping an influencer with a seemingly large audience.  If that’s where the collaboration stops in the relationship, then most of the value of effective influencer content is being misunderstood.

For marketers that truly understand influence marketing to be a form of media, fake followers are less of a risk because campaign success isn’t solely reliant on organic reach. And according to one recent survey, 82% of marketers are aligned with this outlook. For these campaigns, talent matching is based on a number of factors beyond the follower count, including real creativity, actual engagement with fans, authentic alignment, professionalism and brand safety. The results of these deeper defined relationships are measurable as an ad buy, rather than a blind social media spend, the lens through which some still (incorrectly) see influencers through.

Choosing The Right Collaborator

The key is not rushing into influence marketing but understand the space, and utilize trusted partners to help navigate what is still a newer environment for many brands. That same eMarketer survey cited above shows that 41% of marketers believe that influencer fraud is holding back the industry’s growth.

After screening the influencer universe, only the top 10% within each segment are brand safe and professional creators. This makes expert vetting essential to navigate the crowded space for any campaign. With nearly a million potential influencer partners across the social landscape, the concern and reality of picking the wrong influencer partner is a growing one, sure. But there are tools to help sort through which personas hold actual, quantifiable influence vs those that are racking up high follower and like counts with low engagement.

Vetting is critical at any level, though, and there are tools to track abnormal social handle growth (large influxes all at once) and strange engagement rates signaling fake activity commonly associated with bots.  Even without tools, you can easily spot “follower to following” counts that are above normal, and therefore highly suspicious.

Statement of Authenticity

Another way to combat follower uncertainty is to ask them to sign a disclosure before agreeing to work together. A statement of authenticity from influencer accounts ties honestly directly to the agreement.

Here is a real quote from a professionally vetted influencer with regards to buying fake followers or likes: “No I have not and never plan to . I have built my audience based on trust and high quality content, I would never want to lose that.”

Frauds won’t try to pass off fake followers as “real” in writing, and if they happen to attempt it, any potential contract is voided. This not only protects brands and agencies from entering into problematic relationships. It also protects that top 10% of legitimate, professional creators that make a living from this line of work and the influence they’ve cultivated within their unique communities.

Don’t let the spectre of fake followers scare you off from these effective, targeted ad buys. Simply follow a diligent process for vetting and matching influencers, and you’ll realize that effective talent don’t actually need anything artificial to deliver a great media campaign for your brand.

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