Zombie-followers: The dead are walking in the world of influencer...

Zombie-followers: The dead are walking in the world of influencer marketing

By: Retail CIO Outlook | Thursday, October 29, 2020

You come across a social media profile with a higher than average follower count, thousands of likes and previous brand partnership experience – trick or treat?

With the number of influencer marketing campaigns continuing to rise, it’s not too uncommon for brands to fall victim to the deceit of such accounts with fake followers and an inauthentic audience.

That’s not to say that all macro-influencers fall into this category. In fact, the bad apples are few and far between and are heavily outnumbered by those that are honest and entirely trustworthy.

However, it is important to understand exactly how to choose an influencer that has all of the best intentions for you and your brand.

Now, we’re not trying to scare anyone away from influencer marketing. Quite the opposite actually. And enlisting the help of an influencer marketing agency can help brands to find an influencer with a truly loyal and authentic audience that will help to generate an impressive return on investment.

“Social media is one of the only mediums that has experienced unrivalled growth in recent months. Any marketer can see that promotional activity on the online platform needs to form part of a brand’s strategy going forward. And an influencer partnership is one of the most effective and organic tactics to use to do just that,” explains Amelia Neate, Senior Manager at global influencer marketing agency, Influencer Matchmaker.

Amelia isn’t wrong. In fact, influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online customer acquisition method, with 22% of marketers also labelling it the most cost-effective.

And as a result, 67% of marketers at brands across a range of sectors are preparing to increase their influencer marketing spend over the next 12 months.

But, as brands begin to up the ante with influencer activity, Amelia explains how to make the most of an influencer marketing campaign, ensuring it is as effective as possible.

Fake follower fears

“Fake followers and dead leads come in many forms. Notoriously, bought followers are one of the most common, whereby individuals skip the hard work involved in rising to social media stardom, and instead, pay for fake followers in order to make their account look bigger than it really is.

“While this is becoming something that is condemned by both users and brands, unless they are found out, it can be difficult to distinguish a genuine high follower count from a fake one.

“Another type of fake follower is an account that has been inactive for a long period of time, whether that be because an individual has forgotten about it, no longer wishes to use it but hasn’t deleted the profile, or otherwise.

“But regardless of the reason, an account that is not active can negatively impact engagement ratings.”

Highlighting just how harmful this can be for brands, a study has found that there could be as many as 95 million “bots” posing as fake followers on Instagram alone, costing businesses $1.3 billion in dead leads and loss.

To combat the detrimental effects that this has on a brand, utilising the expertise of an influencer marketing agency can help put minds at rest and ensure that the campaign will reach thousands, if not millions of highly engaged followers.

Unmasking the issue

There have been a number of cases over the years where individuals with influencer status have been found guilty of buying fake followers to improve perceptions of their power and prominence on platforms.

For instance, the Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood found himself in a fake follower scandal when he took a break from Twitter after his follower count dropped in the wake of the social networking site removing fake accounts from the platform.

Other studies reveal a startlingly high fake follower percentage for famous influencers, such as Kourtney Kardashian and various other social media influencers.

“It’s just a number at the end of the day, right? But as far as brands are concerned, this should set alarm bells ringing,” Amelia warns.

“When a brand rolls out an influencer campaign, they do so under the impression that their brand will reach a wider audience – and an engaged one at that.

“Influencers can charge large sums of money for just a single post, so brands need to be sure that the return, for instance, in the reach or exposure they will gain, is sizable enough to justify the spend.”

So, what should brands do?

Amelia explains that there are a number of things to look at when partnering with an influencer.

“Rather than focusing on follower counts, place greater importance on engagement ratings. While the size of the audience your campaign reaches might be smaller, those it does reach are more likely to interact with it. And that’s how you will achieve results and meet your marketing objectives.

“Micro-influencers tend to have higher engagement ratings. Although not large, their audiences are generally more interactive and authentic and therefore, can prove to be much more valuable for brands.

“While there are tools out there to check engagement ratings, you can run your own research by comparing follower counts to the number of likes the profiles posts get.

“If you are still uncertain about an influencer’s legitimacy, comments are another telling factor. Check whether, firstly, they are getting any comments and secondly, whether there are any patterns or spam-like activity in them.

“For example, comments from what appears to be different users, but which all read the same, are likely to be bots.

“Alternatively, you can enlist the help of an agency for your campaigns. As well as tools and industry insight, agencies have access to a huge amount of data to aid brands with the success of their campaigns. Influencer marketing agencies typically build and nurture strong relationships with influencers, who they know have authentic followings and engagement ratings.”

So, before you knock on the doors of social media profiles for help with your next influencer campaign, be sure your investment will be met with treats and not tricks.

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