It seems that in 2018, fake followers, fake engagement and influencer fraud have almost become synonyms for influencer marketing to the outside world, with big media outlets often reporting on the latest cases of fraud. As an industry, we need to cultivate an influencer marketing environment that understands the value of long-term relationships & measuring beyond reach - and that’s the goal for 2019!
Back in 2017 - I wrote an article on the ‘’war’’ against fake influencers, with nearly two years having passed, it seems that the topic has become more relevant now than ever. With notable people such as Keith Weed from Unilever weighing in on the topic and adding some much needed urgency and attention - this has led to the topic unforgivingly hitting the mainstream in 2018. Last November, Instagram delivered news confirming their ongoing activity in the quest to reduce inauthentic activity on their platform, focusing on applying machine learning to cull fake followers and fake engagements alike. Great stuff right? I agree - but doctors always say that it’s better to prevent than to treat symptoms.
A lot of people talk about fake influence, too - and being part of Traackr’s professional services team allows me to enable our clients to deal with this topic effectively, making sure that we provide the knowledge and tools to combat influencer fraud. We focus heavily on the educational aspect of influencer marketing, making sure that we showcase the benefits of data driven, long-term activations in the battle against fraud.
As a whole in our industry, we are all asking the same question.. “how do we battle influencer fraud and preserve the integrity of this incredibly powerful marketing channel?”
First and foremost - it requires a change in thinking about our fundamental goals, the KPIs we measure and the very nature of our relationships between brand and content creator. I very strongly feel that as long as we treat influencers simply as ad-buys and we keep using metrics based on absolute reach & engagements, we are creating a dangerous environment, one where brands’ KPIs are focused too heavily on reach & engagement metrics - which forces those working with influencers to seek out those with the highest figures to internally impress. This seeps into the content creation world, and - understandably so - has driven a portion of influencers to skew their numbers artificially so they could be considered for paid opportunities. One influencer with 48,000 followers and amazing content once reached out to me and told me that they would only be considered for paid opportunities at the 50,000 followers mark. This environment obviously leads to either dubious behaviors on the part of influencers; or, missed opportunities for brands.
We should keep in mind that true influencer marketing combines paid, earned and owned influence. Creating a long-term, sustainable strategy means activating all tiers, this includes (however you wish to call them) brand advocates, nano, micro, macro and celebrity influencers. They all have a role to play.
Secondly, the importance of relationships within the context of influencer marketing shouldn’t be discounted. Smash-and-grab relationships are not often associated with trust, neither between brand and influencer; nor, between the content creator and their audience. As a brand wanting to build and instill trust, there needs to be a framework in place that empowers long-term relationships and measures their impact. Which is why we’ve incorporated content tracking and reporting, not just on your paid campaigns, but on all content publicly published by an influencer. With this in hand, you have the power to properly vet and grow relationships with influencers over the long haul.
Lastly, data, in combination with human due diligence, is of vital importance when it comes to battling influencer fraud. This begins with influencer identification and vetting and goes all the way through to reporting. The location of an influencers’ audience is very important, and can often serve as a proxy for fraud, while also ensuring you are reaching your target audience. It’s crucial to have a process and technology in place to review, flag and vet historical content for brand fit and safety.
As the stakes and investments continue to mount, global brands are taking the above very seriously, and I would urge everyone in the industry to share best practices and success stories of programs that go beyond vanity metrics and empower the industry to move towards a more sustainable, long-term influencer marketing ecosystem.