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Best Practices For Spotting Instagram Follower Fraud

Brands have been leveraging celebrities and popular personalities for decades to promote their products and services. Influencer marketing has simply provided a new platform for brands to do so.  In fact, BI Intelligence estimates influencer marketing ad spend will reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022.

Despite the popularity of influencer marketing campaigns, one aspect has been getting lots of negative attention recently: follower fraud, or influencers buying followers.

So what exactly should companies be doing to ensure the influencer they are working with is ethical? I’ve outlined the three best practices you can monitor to check for inauthentic and fraudulent behaviors by influencers on Instagram.

Constantly changing algorithms. It seems that as soon as influencers figure out the current Instagram algorithm, it changes again. It takes time for influencers to navigate their way through these changes, often affecting engagement rates and losing followers in the process. Even the most ethical of influencers can succumb to unethical practices in difficult circumstances. Suspicious activity such as dramatic increases in engagement over a very short period of time just after a significant algorithm change may be indicative of an influencer buying likes or followers.

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Engagement rates. An influencer’s engagement rate can be found by dividing the number of followers the influencer has by the number of likes and comments a post receives. According to a  Business Insider report, the average influencer engagement rate across industry verticals is 5.7%. For comparison, the average engagement rate for brands sits right at about 2% to 3%. If the number of likes and comments is dramatically lower than the number of followers, it could be a key indicator of purchased followers. An inconsistent engagement rate is often one of the best indications of suspicious activity.

Quality and quantity of followers. Another way to identify follower fraud is to take a closer look at the influencer’s followers. A major red flag is if the influencer has a high follower count, but only a handful of posts. Influencers typically grow their following over several years through consistently posting engaging content of interest to their followers.

If an influencer has thousands of accounts following them but only a few posts, you can be fairly certain that they bought followers. Not even world-famous celebrities can grow a large following overnight without consistent content.

The quality of the followers an influencer has can be just as telling as the quantity. Be wary of accounts with a high tendency to re-gram. If the accounts the influencer follows don’t have any original content, it is a clear warning sign of an inauthentic influencer.

Whether a company runs an influencer marketing campaign internally or outsources to an agency, it is essential that proper vetting is done. This ultimately ensures that brands are being represented in an authentic manner, alongside influencers that will ultimately provide the best ROI for their brand.

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