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What is an influencer and how you can spot a fake one

Social media is constantly evolving and has become so integrated into our personal lives that many people start their day by scrolling through their social media feeds to read the latest updates. From a business perspective, a social media presence creates brand awareness and a connection between the customer and the business.

However, there is a different side to social media, where an individual can reach an almost celebrity status by establishing credibility within a specific community. Social media influencers have followers in a particular niche with whom they interact on a daily basis. An influencer is able to influence purchasing decisions of his/her followers because they believe he/she is an expert on a particular matter or because the follower desires to emulate the influencer.

The majority of influencers fit into one of the following categories:

  • Celebrities – Individuals who have achieved fame in a particular sphere usually (but not always) outside of the internet. These include actors, musicians and sports personalities but could be anyone who has achieved fame in their field
  • Bloggers and content creators – Technically a blogger is anyone who creates a blog but in the context of an influencer it would be someone who is considered to have expertise in a particular field, has a large following and actively promotes their blog/online content.
  • Industry experts and thought leaders – Individuals or groups who are perceived to be leaders in their field and be able to provide credible insights to their followers
  • Micro influencers – Micro influencers could fit into any of the above categories but on a smaller scale and they usually have a very narrow field of expertise. Because they often are not professional full-time influencers but have rather gained a following due to their passion and perceived expertise, they are considered to be the most credible form of influencer.

Real vs fake influencers

Influencers have been proven useful to brands and businesses but it’s important to note that they are not simply marketing tools, but rather social relationship assets that can help brands achieve their marketing objectives. Influencers can create trends and encourage their followers to buy the products they promote. As great as it may sound, influencer marketing has its drawbacks with influencer fraud being one of them. Unfortunately, brands that fall victim to influencer fraud often suffer both reputational and financial damage.

A fake influencer can be defined as a social media user who artificially increases their following and engagements to imitate influence. They are considered scammers looking to make easy money by “buying” followers. These followers are usually bots designed to increase a profile’s follower count making it seem as though the profile in question has a large online following.

Naturally, brands don’t want to be associated with fake influencers but identifying them can be quite difficult. Here’s how to spot them.

Their follower growth: Growing a large online following takes time and effort – it doesn’t just happen overnight. Tracking an influencer’s follower growth can reveal whether or not they purchased their followers. A relatively new account with 200 000 followers is likely to be fake.

Their follower vs engagement ratio: Look at how many likes and comments they receive per post in comparison to their number of followers. Generally, fake influencers only receive a small number of engagements per post. This can be calculated manually or by using an online tool designed for this purpose. 

Their follower to following Ratio: On Instagram, when looking at an influencers profile, compare the number of accounts he or she follows with the follower amount. If you see the number of followers is far exceeding the number of followings, be careful. This is probably the most common way to spot a fake account.

Their activity on other platforms: While most influencers have a preferred social media platform, they don’t limit themselves to only one. A real influencer will have a similar number of followers on all their platforms while a fake influencer won’t.

Google them: This may sound obvious but a good way to weed out the fake influencers is to simply Google them. Influencers are often well known online so their names or social media handles will be present in search results.

See also:  2019’s Top 10 Social Media Influencers

How influencers can benefit a brand

As a brand, it’s important to do your research before choosing an influencer. If you are a lifestyle brand, work with a lifestyle influencer. That way, your target audience is already following the influencer, so you don’t have to search. Influencer marketing is a direct, sure shot strategy for reaching your target audience.

Moreover, influencer marketing can establish brand trust. A product endorsement from an influencer can boost your reputation as his or her infusion of credibility by association is extremely valuable for moulding a leadership position within your industry.

Would you like to learn more about how influencers can fit into a well-balanced and complete marketing strategy? Why not upskill with one of IMM’s short courses in Strategic Brand Management or Social Media Marketing. For more information on these and other short courses offered by IMM, call 0861 466 476 or visit www.immsc.co.za

Influencers: Superheroes or Supervillains?

The IMM Graduate School | Super heroes in combat FB webScrolling through my Instagram timeline I came across yet another self-proclaimed influencer flogging what seemed to be the millionth product in as many days. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and instead of being influenced in a positive way and loving the product, I was annoyed… not only with the person who posted it, but also with the brand.

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there and because of this the word ‘influencer’ has gotten a bad rep in recent years.

Influencer marketing is still quite a new concept in South Africa, and it makes sense that we’ve been learning through trial and error. However, we’ve already learnt big lessons and we see many brands implementing remarkable influencer campaigns, but there are just as many who are still struggling to get it right.

Think strategy

A lot of influencer campaigns fall flat for one main reason. Brands skip an extremely important step when considering influencer campaigns – strategy. Everyone is implementing some sort of influencer tactic but haven’t given much thought as to what success looks like for campaigns.

With a lack of strategy, influencers can either be superheroes or supervillains for your brand. Strategy can be the difference between annoying your target market and them having negative feelings towards your products and services; or being top of mind when they are making purchasing decisions and having warm, fuzzy feelings when thinking about your brand.

One of the mistakes we observe is that there seems to be one list of influencers that is shared between brands and agencies, as we see the same influencers being used time and time again by various brands.

When this happens, the influencer and their content loses its authenticity, rendering them ineffective. It’s as easy as expanding the list of influencers that brands use, including the types, making sure they align with brand values and are best suited to reach objectives and target markets to get around this.

The vetting of influencers is also paramount to ensure that they do not engage in activities or behaviour that can harm the reputation of the brand. Equally important is to audit influencer followings and engagements to check for fake or bought followers and fake engagements… aka using social media pods and the like. Don’t fret, there are companies out there that specialise in doing just that, trust the professionals to get this right for you.

On the flip side, it’s also in the interest of influencers to be discerning about which brands they work with, in order to not be overused or switching between competitors too quickly, which can lead to brands not wanting to work with them; and ultimately getting a reputation for being a blegger*.

Being authentic to their own brands and their currency is the reason people follow them and value their opinions and recommendations. Once influencers work with anyone and everyone, their influence will drop as they are no longer viewed as unbiased and authentic.

When brands take a step back and identify the basics, like what they want to achieve and who they want to speak to through influencers, the next step is to match the type of influencers that should be utilised.

Each category of influencers excels in achieving different objectives. Whether you decide on nano, micro, macro or mega influencers, make sure that they are best positioned to influence the target market in the desired way. 

*A blegger is an influencer who works with any brand without making sure the brand aligns with their values and audience. Bleggers are also known to push different brands within short lag times between each other and thus causes fatigue in their audiences.