How Fake Followers Are Costing Brands $1.3 Billion a Year

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Fraudulent Influencer Marketing is Costing Brands $1.3 Billion a Year
Katie Powers writes on about how fake-follower fraud in influencer marketing is hitting brands hard.

In 2019, influencer marketing spend has already reached the lofty heights of $8.5 billion. That figure is expected to top the $10 billion mark in 2020. It seems that, despite a constant buzz of debate around influencer marketing effectiveness, brands are still keen to associate themselves with prominent social media figures.

$1.5 Billion by 2020 Wasted on Fraudulent Influencers
According to research carried out by Cheq and Roberto Cavazos, a professor at the University of Baltimore, $1.3 Billion of influencer spend is being wasted on fake followers. That figure is expected to hit $1.5 billion in 2020.

Researchers considered a number of factors when it came to defining fraudulent influencer marketing. They looked at inflated follower counts, which happen because some companies sell followers by the thousand for only a few dollars.

How Influencers Are Fooling Brands
As a marketer representing your clients, it's important that you are able to vet influencers properly. These days a lot of influnecers are secretly inflating their actual numbers by using automation or black hat services.

Nik Speller the head of campaigns at an influencer marketing agency says:

"They use automated services to act on your behalf to follow people, unfollow them again, like content, comment on content, just to do all that underlying stuff that an account has to do sometimes to grow and do it in a turbo-charged way. In this way, all of a sudden you follow 500 people, 200 follow you back, you unfollow them, you've got 200 followers, and it looks like you are important because your follower number is bigger than the number of people you follow."

And that's just the influencers that actually do have a gig! Some aspiring, but less than honest influencers go as far as pretending to be sponsored - in the hopes that they'll convince a brand that they would be a good potential partnership. Social Chain found in an audit of 10,000 influencers recently, that 25% of their followers were engaged in fraudulent activity.

Even marketing agencies who have access to high level influencers still experience this problem.
Making Every Marketing Dollar Count - Possible?
Yet, is any of this actually shocking? It's hardly even a surprise. We all know there are holes in influencer marketing, and that not all accounts are everything they're cracked up to be. Where people look to make money, there will always be a rogue element that pushes the boundaries of honesty. When there's a payday to be had, humans will bend the rules.

The figures in the study featured here project approximately 15% of influencer spend is wasted on fake followers. That honestly doesn''t sound that suprising to me. Anyone with a high number of followers is bound to have some inactive and/or fake users on their list.

The important thing is that you have a solid vetting process in place and if possible, establish CTAs that will help you track your ROI. You can incorporate CTAs like - Use my discount code, comment below, follow this account, etc.

Most influencers should be okay with this and if they aren't, I would highly recommend you re-consider working with them or look into their analytics and history more using things like Social Blade, Social Insider, Hype Auditor, Etc.

Tracking every single dollar spent isn't easy but it is possible!
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