The digital industry is facing a number of challenges. The rising popularity of adblockers highlights the way in which consumers see advertising as an annoyance. Then there’s the issue of metrics that just fail to add up - click fraud hides the fact that advertising campaigns are reaching a small percentage of the intended target audience.

With the issues highlighted above in mind, brands and agencies have been seeking new ways to engage with their audiences. One of the fastest growing methods to do this in recent years has been through influencer marketing. It’s become a key element of the digital mix.

However, as influencer marketing's rise in popularity has gathered pace and become lucrative, this industry has seen rise to fraud within campaigns. Bought traffic, fake engagements and a lack of accountability are just some of the issues.

It’s time for the industry to grow...

The value of influencers

You’ve all heard of Zoella, right? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it would be hard to find anyone who has a understanding of social influencers that weren’t famiilar with Zoe ‘Zoella’ Sugg. The fashion and beauty blogger has an impressive following: over 11.6 million subscribers on YouTube, 11 million Instagram followers and a 9.2 million-strong Twitter fanbase. Zoella has a best-selling line of beauty products, smashed first-week sales records when she released her debut book ‘Girl Online’, and was recently named the #1 Beauty Influencer by Forbes in its 2017 Top Influencers list.

With the rise of influencers like Zoella, brands and agencies are now recognising the value of collaborating with these rulers of the new digital world. You just have to look at the way an increasing number of celebrities are monetising their social media accounts along with their skills. A single Instagram post from Selena Gomez is reported to set a brand back $775,000 while, Beyoncé charges a cool $1 million. The latest Love Island participants are expected to rake in up to a million each from working with brands to sell the latest teeth whitening and beauty products. It’s BIG business.

As this burgeoning industry has grown, along with the potential for very lucrative rewards, this has spawned a subset of the market that poses a threat to influencers, brands and agencies alike.

The ‘InstaFaker’

With the lure of untapped earning potential, we’re now seeing a growing number of social media users and bloggers turning to more dubious practices to gain a higher following, increase engagement and drive impressions. Rather than growing a digital presence organically, you can now simply purchase one. There is an untold amount of sites that offer a thousand new followers or likes for as little as £5.

You think this is bad? It’s only going to get worse from here.

According to reports, influencer marketing can generate six times the ROI compared with earned media - so it’s understandable as to why brands and agencies are attracted by it. However, with an influx of bots that can help you to win friends and influence people, the challenge of differentiating between the influencers that have the potential to substantially drive brand awareness and ROI, and those that merely look like they can, is becoming increasingly difficult for brands and agencies to decipher.

As a result of the above, stories of brands and agencies having negative experiences with certain influencers when it comes to analysing campaigns and measuring the results versus the investment is increasing in worrying frequency.

It’s clear we face challenges when it comes to influencer marketing - but how can we tackle these head on?

You can never ask too many questions

Brands and agencies often use the wrong KPIs to determine the best influencer for their campaign. Metrics, such as the number of followers, likes or number of page impressions on a blog are not as helpful at determining potential ROI as click through rate might be. Brands and agencies that ensure they are tracking the right metrics against the best KPI for their campaign are less likely to be hoodwinked by fake followers.

Align your goals

Ensuring that the campaign goals are aligned with the best influencer and best channels, can help brands and agencies to determine which KPIs and metrics they should measure for their campaign. Which leads us too…

Size doesn’t always matter

Choosing an influencer with the 150k+ followers doesn’t necessarily equate to the best engagement rate for a sponsored post or campaign. So called ‘micro-influencers, with targeted and engaged audiences, can often provide a much better rate of engagement for a brand.

Use technology to your advantage

Other technologies have arisen as a direct response to the rise of bots. This enables users to sift through social media profiles, looking for patterns and other signs of automation such as ‘liking’ and commenting at the same time each day, word repetition, etc.

Don’t blow your budget all at once

If you have a budget in place, don’t go all in on one particular influencer. Test the water initially, measure the results and then review. Spreading your budget across a number of influencers with smaller communities may give you more value for money - and results.

With brands and agencies estimated to assign $1 billion to influencer marketing on Instagram alone, influencers, brands and agencies and brand have a responsibility to work together and safeguard against fraud. Only then will all three be able to ensure that the untapped potential of the market can be fully realised.


By Simon Staib, COO and co-founder of blogfoster

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