May 20, 2020

How to spot a fake – influencer management and the measure of true engagement

These accounts are counterfeit coins in the booming economy of online influence, reaching into virtually any industry where a mass audience, or the illusion of it, can be monetized


Defining the Influencer

The term “influencer” can be traced back to a 1968 report titled The People’s Choice, which studied how voters make up their mind during a presidential election. It identified the importance of “opinion leaders” who draw their views from the media, then use their “personal influence” to diffuse media messages across their personal networks, shaping opinions across the wider mass. Since then, social media personalities, or “influencers”, have more recently been identified as being a strategic and powerful avenue for product promotion. Social media influencers can be defined as individuals or groups of individuals who can shape attitudes and behaviours through online channels. Influencers are ordinary internet users who accumulate a relatively large following on blogs, micro-blog posts and social media through the textual and visual narration of their personal lives and lifestyles, engage with their following in “digital” and “physical” spaces, and monetize their following by integrating “advertorials” into their blogs or social media posts and making physical paid-guest appearances at events.


Why Partner with an Influencer

While most people can distinguish between regular programming and infomercials on television, and between regular content and advertisements in print publications, 62% of Web browsers could not distinguish between paid and unpaid posts among search results.

An influencer’s role is therefore to reflect some aspect of normalisation and connect followers with the authentic stories and quality of the brand in real and virtual occasions. Influencer posts can be categorised as advertorials, which are thought to be more effective than dispassionate, clinical advertisements since they take the form of a personal narrative and incorporate influencers’ perspectives of having experienced the product or service first-hand. Brands often benefit by aligning more with influencer endorsers as opposed to celebrity endorsers because they help by connecting them to audiences on a more personal level. What makes these influencers so successful appears to be their capacity to engage with users and develop a level of trust. As a result, social media influencers have now overtaken traditional celebrities in their ability to influence purchasing behaviour as users find them more credible and relatable


How to Spot a Fake

The commercialisation of a platform often breeds exploitation of it. Social media fraud has become increasingly prevalent, with companies such as Devumi selling followers and retweets/reposts to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wishes to appear more popular or exert influence online. There have been noted catastrophes, such as the Fyre Festival, when supermodel influencers were paid $250,000 to promote an advertised event that spectacularly failed to resemble its publicised image. Misrepresenting images online has become increasingly common. Carolyn Stritch, a British travel blogger used Face-App to insert her face into photos on a glamourous holiday to Disney Land (Stritch, 2018), while Youtuber Amelia Liana triggered a backlash last year after she posted a suspiciously perfect photo of herself in

front of the Taj Mahal with no other tourists in sight (Stritch, 2018). There have been revelations of corruption – bought followers, undeclared paid-for content and fake likes.

Over and above misleading content production by influencers, false appearances of engagement persist. Fake accounts, known as bots, now infest social media networks. Dovetale, a software company identifying large numbers of fake accounts notes that, on average, 16.4% of the followers on Instagram’s top 20 accounts were fraudulent. As a result, brands are starting to steer away from reach (audience size) as a meaningful metric (since that reach could be littered with bots) and pushing marketers to focus more on engagement and clicks


At the Black Snow Group, our team of experts have compiled key tips:

1 – Measure engagement percentage

Add the total number of likes and posts over a month period and divide that by the total number of followers to get your engagement percentage.

Having a large number of followers does not necessarily add value to the brand unless these followers show a high level of engagement.

2 – Look out for bots

Clear signs of bot activity include the use of only emoji’s in comments on an influencer’s post or comments that have little to no relation to the image and content of the post.

3 – Request detailed platform metrics

The influencer should have details regarding the age, gender and location of followers. This information should inform your decision of whether to enter a partnership or not.

4 – Be creative

There are many ways to integrate influencers authentically into your product messaging. Whether this entails going “live” with the influencer for a workout session or a cooking demonstration, the influencer having a taste-test of your product, or, as in the case of our client Ambassador Foods UK and the Macro influencer Zanna Van Dijk, develop a product with the influencer such as the Zanna Van Dijk plant powered granola.

If you struggle to find and construct sustainable and authentic influencer partnerships, leave it to the experts and let the team at Black Snow guide you.


Share this entry