How to Spot a Fake Instagram Influencer

Ever bought an outfit, switched to a new skincare routine, or experimented with a health supplement all because a reasonably famous stranger on Instagram told you to do so? That’s the kind of power some individuals on social media wield over the masses – and their powers of persuasion haven’t gone unnoticed by brands striving to stand out.

Advertisers are increasingly relying upon social media content creators, especially those native to Instagram, to help drive awareness for their products and business. Popular with teens and young adults who are digital natives, Instagram content creators – AKA influencers – hold considerable sway over their audience, who are likely to follow their recommendations and advice seriously, and attempt to emulate their lifestyle.

To hook this younger audience, brands often look for influencers with large followings – after all, numbers speak to brands. Thus, the higher the follower count, the more likely it is for an influencer to be courted with partnerships, endorsements, and collaborations. Unsurprisingly, learning about this system has led some greedy individuals to resort to unscrupulous methods of increasing follower count while offering little substantive content in return.

Because marketing, and especially digital marketing often relies on agility and speed, executives operating under tight deadlines may not have the luxury of properly vetting the follower lists and accounts of the influencers they choose to work with. However, not implementing strict quality checks does not bode well for brands, as working with fake influencers will dilute brand reputation. Additionally, it will lead to wasted marketing dollars spent on reaching bots instead of real people.

If you or your brand are looking to engage influencers, here is a handy guide on how to weed out dubious social media personalities:

Famous nearly overnight

Did the influencer in question start at the bottom with a humble number of followers, but now boasts of tens of thousands of followers nearly overnight – without having committed any notable acts of internet notoriety? Whatever caused the follower count to skyrocket is a mystery that no one can attribute to anything the person posted, leaving you to only guess. To discern whether a following is legitimate or not, use social media tracking tools, which allow you to check the number of followers gained over time. If there a sudden spike that cannot be explained, it’s likely the extra followers were purchased. Another tactic that several fake influencers employ is the “follow-unfollow” ploy, which involves following people and then immediately unfollowing them once they have followed back.

Quality of comments

If the comments on an influencer’s post consist mostly of generalised compliments with dubious grammar or entirely of emojis, they are probably generated by hundreds of bot accounts. While they might seem genuine upon first glance, a few comments repeating the same variation of “great job”, “keep it up”, and “wow” are a tell-tale sign of non-human interaction. Spam accounts also often post comments begging for likes or follows on their own page, and may even ask you to check out a link on their bio (you are strongly advised not to do this as you might be redirected to a compromised website). So how do you know when comments are genuine? Look for positive and negative feedback, or people tagging their friends and interacting with them on the post itself.

Engagement rates

Engagement rates are one of the primary metrics marketers look for when choosing influencers to partner with. While the “magic number” for influencer engagement rates differs from company to company, 1-3% seems to be the generally accepted figure. On the part of the influencers, factors such as type, timing, and frequency of posts also play a role in how often followers interact with their content. If an influencer with a massive following (in the tens of thousands or more) attract a paltry sum of likes (10-20) per post or has a low engagement rate, their follower base definitely consists of bots. For exact figures, tools such as SocialBlade will automatically generate a report card detailing an influencer’s overall ranking, grade, and engagement rates. For more extensive campaigns, brands can also consider tools like Meltwater’s* Social Influencers discovery tool that has more in-depth analytics tools that break down an account’s demographics, interests and other metrics

Quality of followers

To gain a better idea of the influencer’s target audience, look at the kinds of accounts that follow them. Right off the bat, you’ll be able to tell if the accounts are suspect or not. For example, if the accounts have random strings of letters and numbers for names, then it is safe to assume they are spam accounts. Accounts like these be can bought by the thousands for a small sum of money, so if an influencer’s following is impressive, but consists mostly of these types of accounts, they’re probably not the real deal.

Social media presence outside of Instagram

While this might sound counterintuitive, it is not uncommon for influencers to maintain a presence across multiple social media sites. If they are experts in their niche (beauty, fashion, art, design, food, travel) check to see if they have been featured in magazines and newspapers. If they are genuine content creators, it’s likely they will have worked with other influencers, brands and companies. Keep an eye out for any public events they might attend, such as launch parties, interviews or television shows. If these “influencers” are virtually ghosts outside of the colourful pastiche that is Instagram, alarm bells should be sounding off in your head.

By following these guidelines, you should be able to determine if an influencer is legitimate or not. Fingers crossed the ones you have shortlisted are, and that you get to work with them!

Need help finding a popular face to better reach your Gen Z customers? Just say ‘hi’ at hello@mutant.com.my and we’ll talk.

*Disclaimer – Meltwater is a client of Mutant Communications, but this blog is not sponsored by them

How to grow your business with content marketing in 2019

The year is in full swing and marketing strategies are being rolled out… but maybe you kind of haven’t started yours yet? Don’t worry, it’s not too late to begin – especially since content marketing isn’t solely about driving leads, but the stories you want to tell.

Based on our content marketing experience with brands across Singapore and Southeast Asia, we have put together a few tips and techniques you can use to beef up your efforts this year, regardless of whether you have done your marketing homework or not.

#1 Quality over quantity

Although a regular content output remains important, the quality of each piece is more important than ever before. With thousands of posts, articles and newsletters being published and pushed out every single day, the sheer volume of available content is overwhelming. Simply rehashing your competitors’ communications won’t be convincing or engaging, to say the least.

If you are going to create content in 2019, make sure it matters to your audience and feels fresh. Whether it’s your own opinion posted to LinkedIn, your next company blog or a product-related post on Facebook, give it substance, a point of view, and ask yourself if it adds any value. Also, don’t simply produce content for the sake of it – instead publish content when you have something to say.

Want to know more about how to take a stance as a brand? Read this.

#2 Email marketing doesn’t rely on algorithms

If you are worried about social media advertising algorithms messing about with your budget, then it’s time to revitalise your email marketing strategy. Email is one of the only channels that doesn’t rely on ever-changing algorithms.

Whether you already have a solid database or are just starting out, an email marketing strategy is a worthy investment. With great visuals, quality content, and an opinionated subject line, you can grab the attention of the people that matter.

Tip: Don’t overload your newsletters with too much content. Have a topic that ties back to your business for each newsletter.

#3 Influencers? Yes, but…

It’s the age if the influencer… including the ‘fake’, wannabe inauthentic ‘influencers’ that pop of everywhere claiming to have a phenomenal reach. There are just as many ‘fake’ influencers promoting their services and reach to any brand that is keen enough listen as there are real ones, and so it comes as no surprise that Instagrammers look to buy followers or use other shady tactics. Just last year, Singapore-based Daryl Aiden Yow was exposed for passing off stock images as his own, offering his photography services at the same time.

To identify influencers who actually add value to your business, take a deep look into their feeds. Look critically at their engagement and comments. If it seems legit, it’s time to meet them – if not in person, then at least over a quick call. Their personality and attitude will often provide better insight into whether they are in it for a quick buck or if they are passionate content creators worthy of investment.

#4 Merge quality with measurement

We can’t say it often enough – create, measure, analyse and optimise. While this may sound straightforward, these simple steps divide content teams everywhere.

There are two camps in content marketing: On one side are the editorial purists, who polish each sentence until it could win a literary prize. On the other side are the SEO-minded Google Analytics marketers, who tend to produce conglomerations of keyword that will make great use of checklists and algorithms.

Who’s the better content marketer? Well, they both are, if they work together.

The truth is that the most common concern regarding content marketing, especially among SMEs and startups, is related to their return on investment (ROI). Be it brand awareness, website clicks, conversions or leads, setting KPIs and measuring your content rigorously is important. But it’s equally important to craft well-written and informative pieces that people actually want to read.

#5 Don’t forget about employer branding

Content marketing is not only a way for brands to create awareness for their products and services, but also to attract and recruit highly-skilled talent.

While a lot of brands successfully market their offerings and attract customers, they are often not so great at telling their story as an employer and engaging the right people to work for them. Though client work always comes first, remember that without the right people working for your company, you won’t be able to offer the highest quality work or grow your business.

Ensure you communicate across different channels, highlighting aspects of your business that matters to the audiences on each channel. While your company blog is a great way to showcase your expertise and express thoughts more freely on a variety of topics, Facebook and Instagram should highlight the fun side of your company in a way that’s as visual as possible. Both LinkedIn and Glassdoor are not only platforms to post jobs but are great for communicating company news to a professional audience. However, don’t forget to leverage marketing and HR titles (or other trade titles) to express your thoughts and opinions on the wider industry.

Need help with some or all of the above? Just say ‘hi’ at hello@mutant.com.my and we’ll talk.