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.