The organisation -- which represents advertisers, and so hates fake followers more than most -- found out earlier this year that 80% of its members are set to increase their spend on influencers. The trouble is, 60% don't feel confident working with influencers. So we're pumping a load more money into a channel we don't really trust. Perfect!
To help, ISBA has renewed its guidelines to advertisers. Right up front we have the thorny issue of clearly labelling posts involving a sponsor with a hashtag such as #ad or #promotion or #sponsored. It still surprises me how many brands do not insist on this up front. It just makes them look so stupid when the ASA later comes to ban unlabelled posts from some Z list celebrity from a pointless reality show.
Perhaps the most helpful advice is the warning against working with influencers who have paid to boost their popularity with fake followers.
To protect against these unscrupulous operators, ISBA's advice is to move on to more meaningful metrics than how many likes or shares a post got. Instead, look at the metrics that matter, such as how many more lipsticks you sold, how many test drives were booked, or how many new business leads were acquired.
This is important because bots and fake followers don't buy things, nor do they interact with brands in any meaningful way.
I caught up with my "go-to" influencer expert the other day, Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential. He's pretty enthused about actions being taken at the major social media platforms to delete fake accounts. Twitter deleting 70m accounts and Instagram adding an 'About this account" feature were useful steps forward this summer. Also, multiple businesses now claim to be able to spot and tackle bots which are used to make an influencer look like they are more influential than they truly are. The sites have admitted there is a problem, the tech is out there, but there is still a long way to go.
So it's probably a good time to remind us all of Ryan's tricks for spotting influencers who use these bots to place lots of likes on a post that don't come from real people. One top tip is to look out for responses to posts. If there is a sudden spike, all at the same time, and then nothing happens, your suspicion should be aroused. You can obviously look at the people who leave comments to see if their profiles look kosher or if they are just photo-less skeleton profiles set up just to make influencers look popular.
A really neat trick Ryan told me, and is happy to pass on, involved retweets or sharing of posts. For me, this is the killer test. If an influencer gets virtually no activity when he or she shares someone else's post, you may well assume that is because they haven't paid for it to be liked by a bunch of bots because it doesn't benefit them. Hence, the likes on their posts may well have been false.
For the four in five ISBA members who want to put more money into influencers, although nearly two in three of them don't trust the channel, these could be a couple of worthwhile tips to save a fortune from being spent on bots, instead of humans.