Four surprising facts about influencer fraud

By: Camilla Castro, Account Associate

UPDATE (March 22, 2019): MSL takes a firm stance when it comes to influencer fraud, so we were thrilled to learn that Facebook is taking their own steps to ensure the platform remains authentic.  MSL attended the annual Facebook Summit for a day of learning what’s new and next for the platform, as well as strategic best practices for marketing with Facebook. This month, Facebook will begin flagging accounts that engage with apps that promise fake followers, likes and engagements (via a private notification to the user suspected of the fraudulent activity), with the ultimate goal of removing fraudulent activity from the platform. MSL  also recently launched Fluency, an influencer marketing service that has fraud detection embedded into the system. This new layer of in-platform security, combined with and Fluency, will ultimately lead to a more authentic social network

It’s not surprising to hear that influencer marketing has grown exponentially since 2010, when some of the first and most successful influencer marketing stories came to life – like this Old Spice campaign.

The market is flooded with influencers and tastemakers in nearly every vertical, landing million dollar deals with international brands. With so much on the line, competition and the need to stand out has increased dramatically among influencers. Some have even turned to creative ways to artificially boost their following to appear more influential and far-reaching than they are in reality.

Here are four facts you might be surprised to learn about the business of influencer fraud.

1. Gifting fake followers. Buying fake followers to boost your own reach is not news, but now anyone can buy followers for someone else, without them ever knowing. Often done with the intention of sabotaging someone else’s fan base and influence, this new capability only emphasizes the importance of doing your due diligence before investing in an influencer partnership.

2. Hiding the evidence. Since some fraudulent activity isn’t overtly seen on a social page, various tools have come into market that help identify potential fraud. While there isn’t one magical tool that will tell you with 100% certainty that someone has fake followers or comments, combining tools that offer different services and using human intelligence, we’ve developed a process that gives us insights into fraudulent activity happening across different users. Just as there are online tools we use to identify fake followings, there are also sophisticated tools and programs developed to hide fake followers, making it nearly impossible to discover.

3. Artificial engagements. Having a large following isn’t always compelling enough for a brand when we evaluate partnership opportunities. More often than ever, we look at measures such as engagement rate and content quality to determine the potential value of an influencer. Unfortunately, simple tools online now make it easy and inexpensive to purchase comments and likes on social media content. For only $100.00, some tools offer up to 1,000 comments. These engagement-generation programs can produce custom comments that are closely associated with the photo, making them appear genuine and authentic.

4. Fraudulent communities. You may have seen groups of influencers (especially on Instagram) who consistently like each other’s content and leave supportive comments. From the outside looking in, this can simply appear to be friendly and genuine behavior; however, “engagement pods” are groups that are solely dedicated to helping each other boost engagement rates. When one member posts, all of the other members are obligated to like and comment – and if they don’t, they’re kicked out of the pod.

As an agency, we actively monitor these trends and evaluate their potential impact on our clients. In order for MSL to continue to help brands share their messages and tell compelling stories in partnership with influencers, we maintain high standards online and work with reliable partners that we know and trust.

The behavior we allow and encourage now will determine the future of the marketing-communications industry, so if you’re interested in learning more about influencer fraud and how our team is combatting the trend, reach out! We’d love to discuss.



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