Who's Fueling The Fake Follower Phenomenon?

According to Mediakix, brands will spend $5 billion to $10 billion on influencer marketing in 2020. In an attempt to earn their part of this pot of gold, influencers are scrambling to prove to brands that they’re worthy of those marketing dollars.

Unfortunately, some have turned to unscrupulous tactics to build their followers, and brands have uncovered some influencers who have those dreaded, “fake followers.”

Who is fueling this flood of fake followers? You might be surprised by the answer. It’s actually a very real cycle being fueled by all parties involved. Here’s our breakdown.

The media. In a time when “fake” news has become chic, it’s no surprise that “fake” has become an acceptable practice by content providers who share news about products. The media has also helped to glorify the lives of cyber celebrities with stories emphasizing the millions of followers of these Instagrammers and YouTubers.  



Brands. In a search for KPIs that can demonstrate a return on investment, brands have focused on the number of followers rather than an influencer’s engagement with followers. In reality, it’s engagement that’s the special sauce that makes influencer marketing so powerful. But those numbers aren’t as grand, so we continue to see RFPs focused on number of followers rather than engagement rates, quality of content or authenticity of a post.

PR and marketing firms. In an attempt to meet their clients’ goals, PR and marketing firms seek out only mega or macro Influencers who can deliver huge social followings regardless of the influencer’s engagement rate, overuse of #AD content, or loyalty to the brand.

Influencer marketing was once known as word-of-mouth marketing and was rarely held to the media impressions that it is today. Measuring influencers in the same manner as paid media has put additional stress on influencers to beef up their followings.

Influencers. In an attempt to stand out in a crowded market and gain the attention of brands and agencies, influencers concentrate on recruiting followers no matter who they are, rather than focusing on engagement with their existing communities. Some, out of desperation to reach said follower requirements and frustrated with the slow churn of building followers, turn to bots, purchased lists of followers and other questionable services to purchase their followers.

It’s a vicious cycle that continues every day in the world of influencer marketing. Fortunately, the emergence of Gen Z influencer will force the media, brands, agencies and influencer to reevaluate the emphasis put on number of followers. Soon all parties will be confronted with Gen Z digital natives who have been accumulating followers since their teen years giving even non-influencer types massive numbers of social followers.

Influencer marketing will finally reach the next level in its evolution when marketers, agencies and influencers will recognize that engagement and brand relevance of content trumps the number of followers. Influence will once again be a verb rather than a career title.

2 comments about "Who's Fueling The Fake Follower Phenomenon?".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 7, 2020 at 8:55 p.m.

    Thank you for the honesty in the article.  Being one of the leaders in "honest" sweepstakes publishing for the last 16+ years, I have seen it all.  On top of my list are public stock company who have a vested interest in the false clicks. Mainly, the companies with the social media platforms. Example, I found a massive fake account business from one city in China. These fake accounts were showing up requesting to be followed. The numbers where in the hundreds for sure and likely in the thousands. I wrote about this in Media Post a couple of months ago. Virually, the next day, the accounts disapeared. 

     The point is in the saying, - Show me the money and I will give you the answer.

  2. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 7, 2020 at 9:32 p.m.

    Maria, I wrote about one event.  This one is on a personal note on the subject. You give astronomical numbers about the amount of what the influencer market is getting paid. However there are many ad agencies, PR firms and even sponsors who openly will not pay me or my competitors. Yet, sweepstakes and contest respresents prescents in 10 percent of all Fortune ads during the year. In the 4th quarter of the year, Christmas, this number is considerably higher. 

     The ad industry is really at the point of shooting themself in the foot, and using a shot gun at that by not supporting the online sweepstakes industry. Then to ad a bone saw to the problem, Google has classifed our industry as "Gambling". There is absolutely no legal foundation because we are not involved in taking money as bets and the online sweepstakes industry. Online gambling is classifed in Class 3 and Class 4 mainly for poker. All this comes from Google attornies I assume in part Google considers the sweep sites as competitors.

     All of this is coming to a head. Stop the ad blocking and change the attitude about our industry or this will come back in the future to harm the industry.

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