Lately, a divisive topic in the influencer-world has been the ethics of Instagram loop giveaways. Most people in this space have a firm stance on this. Over the past several years, influencing has evolved into a respected career path, often resulting in profitable businesses. So why would an influencer risk their legitimacy and authenticity with this dicey game?
OUT OF THE LOOP?
The basics of an Instagram loop giveaway:
- Someone with a large following (e.g., Scott Disick) “hosts” a giveaway
- Influencers or businesses pay the host in order to participate
- The host follows only these influencers and businesses for the duration of the giveaway
- In order to enter and win the giveaway, you must follow everyone in the loop
- At the end of a few days, a winner is picked
Less than a week after this WWD article on loop giveaways came out, Scott Disick and Kylie Jenner joined forces for an Instagram loop. Though the ethics of loop giveaways appear to be murky at best, apparently there are plenty of people who still see the value in it. So, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the science behind what happens during an Instagram loop giveaway.
Specifically, we wanted to answer a few questions:
- How much follower growth can one expect from a loop giveaway?
- How long will this audience stick around, and who are they?
- Of those that do stick around, do they impact the influencer’s engagement rates?
- Will brands be able to detect the use of loop giveaways for followers?
THE UPSIDE FOR INFLUENCERS:
The benefit for influencers is clear; an abundance of “real” followers in record speed. On the day the Scott Disick loop giveaway ended, each of the 75 participants received an average of 180,000 new followers. This is an extreme example, given the fact that each of these people paid nearly $20,000 to participate (loop giveaway costs start around $100 per participant). Unlike purchasing bot followers, the main appeal of loop giveaways is that the followers you recieve are real people. For this particular giveaway, however, about 40% of these followers are still flagged as suspicious in our system.
Not all loop giveaways are going to generate this kind of follower growth; as most aren’t a cash giveaway powered by the Kardashians. Still, the principles remain the same. Pay some money. Increase number of followers. Get paid more from brands for your content.
But it’s not that simple anymore. As a result of the giveaway, an influencer’s engagement rate will decrease at the exact same moment of the steep follower growth. This is not uncommon after a giveaway and can often be substantial. Particularly in the case of loop giveaways, the followers you gain can be less engaged than an organic follow. Engagement rates seem to rise back up as some of the unengaged followers that one has amassed start to fall away. And one week after the winner for this giveaway was announced, the participants had already lost one-third of the new followers they had amassed. This trend of a quick spike in followers followed by a downturn can be seen in an influencer’s follower counts.
HOW TO SPOT A LOOP:
There are a number of reasons why influencers should pause before participating in an Instagram loop giveaway. For starters, us! Traackr has the ability to diagnose the ways in which an influencer obtained their followers; or if they are participating in shady practices. Whether you bought bots, participated in a giveaway, or use pods as a method of engagement-- technology can detect it.
Here’s what Traackr’s Audience Quality tools picked up on for some of the influencers participating in this particular giveaway.
Growth (Follower / Following)
- Patterns within an influencer’s follower/following counts start to appear and things get flagged. Whether it’s several abnormal spikes over time in their follower counts or even steep spikes up and down in who they follow; this will be called out within Traackr. These patterns present themselves due to tactics such as loop giveaways or the mass following of a large set of accounts in order to gain an influx of followers.
- Every Instagram account has at least a certain number of suspicious followers. There’s no getting away from that. But according to Hype Auditor, the more followers you have the lower your % of suspicious accounts should be. And half of the participants of this loop giveaway have double the amount of suspicious accounts they should have based on industry norms.
- This particular indicator is one that seems to disproportionately affect those with smaller amounts of followers. With a smaller audience, you take on more risk when participating in anything that may invite suspicious followers to follow you. Thus you end up tanking your audience quality since a certain number of suspicious followers will impact a smaller tier influencer to a larger extent.
As the influencer space sees continuous growth, it is more important than ever for influencers to calculate the risk and reward before participating in expedited growth techniques. Efficient influencer vetting technologies, such as Traackr, are readily available for brands. Within time, most companies will have access to tools that permit them to deeply assess each influencer they are considering for partnership.
Brands are already moving away from working with influencers simply because of their follower count; instead working with more niche influencers with clearly defined audiences and an authentic online presence. Loop giveaways do give influencers a path to quick success but like most easy roads, there are tradeoffs.
As everyone - consumers, influencers and brands - gravitate towards more transparency in influencer marketing, consider the risks of short cuts before jumping in the ring.
Participating in a loop giveaway doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad or deceptive person. Working with an influencer who has engaged in this activity will not automatically ruin a brand’s reputation. However, if someone is repeatedly participating in growth hacks like loop giveaways, it’s safe to say their following is inauthentic. While these followers may not register as suspicious, a low engagement rate is a clear sign of a mismatched audience. At that point, it’s smart to start weighing options to see if this is the right person to work with. You may want to look at their audience’s interests to make sure they align with your brand. In some instances, they may still be a good fit. It’s important to have a proper system to vet the influencers you work with; otherwise you’re doing so in the dark.