Digital Marketing has, and continues, to go experience the same. However, we now have some hygiene metrics in place for display and there are certification programmes in place for brand safety and fraud. In just a couple of years, things are looking a lot safer for advertisers. It's by no means perfect but there are standards in place and vendors can seek independent verification to show they can apply them.
Influencer marketing has emerged way after digital display and so it's nowhere near this point. So, consider these rather alarming findings in The Drum today. The WFA recently found that two in three brands intend to increase their influencer spend this year. Guess what their major concern is, for 95% of respondents? That's right, our old foe, fraud.
They have good reason to be concerned. The same article reveals new research from CampaignDeus shows one in eight Instagram influencers has bought followers in the past six months. I'm quite surprised that it is only that low and that seven in eight have not. However, it will come as little comfort to brands who have inadvertently chosen to work with a fake follower buyer.
I was chatting about this very problem just the other day, getting an understanding from Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, on his seven steps to spotting influencers who buy fake followers. Other than the useful tips, the take-out is that influencer marketing is years behind display for being able to measure and assure advertisers their budget is being spent on placing messages in front of humans rather than bots.
This has to change, and Ryan believes it will, but there seems to be little impetus at the moment with no public coming together of the major platforms to agree on standards nor common methods of weeding out accounts from known, rogue IP addresses.
It's worth listening to Ryan because his software reveals an average background of 5% of followers being bots. This rang huge confirmatory alarm bells the other day when Twitter announced its cull on bots. Guess what the percentage of followers lost by the average super celebrity was? That's right, around 5%. The total number of followers lost changed but the 5% figure was roughly true among those celebrities that are so huge they have not need to buy followers. This gives us a pretty good background reading for bot penetration. These people aren't buying bots they're simply being followed by them so the bots can appear normal.
This 5% background figure will leap for the typical minor star or micro influencer who may be tempted to buy followers to inflate their ego and make themselves appear more attractive for a campaign. In Ryan's experience, the 5% base level of bots can go up manifold, depending on the influencer. Some buy followers in the early stages and then reform once that initial 'following' has encouraged other real people to sign up. Some just keep on going with the dishonesty.
What is clear is that every brand the WFA talked to in a recent survey is involved or investigating influencer campaigns and very nearly two in three are spending more money on them this year, than last. Nearly all of them know there are fakes out there. The trouble is, it's unpoliced. Tools are emerging to help but there is no defacto standard to measure them against, no IAB or MRC style certification.
It can't go on. Mark these words. Influencer marketing is in its Wild West stage right now and the lawmen that can bring order will be the guys who truly strike gold.