How to Avoid Influencer Fraud?

Nick Baklanov

Marketing specialist at HypeAuditor. Connect on Linkedin.

Fake followers and fraudulent engagement is a huge proble. It could be costing advertisers up to $0.8B each year, so vetting influencer accounts and making sure they are working with quality influencers with genuine engagement must be a priority for brands and agencies.

HypeAuditor asked experts from the Influencer Marketing industry about how they avoid fraud and if they had any experience with fake influencers.

The answers are detailed, interesting and full of insights on how to avoid the fraud problem.
Read and share your opinion and experience in the comments.

Anna Usenko | Content Media Performance Manager at FOREO

1. How do you avoid influencer fraud? (fake followers and engagement)

At FOREO, we take Influencer fraud very seriously. Not only because of the proven lower performance of content on pages with high fraud followers, but also because we want to be part of an open and honest conversation between Creator and their audience, and buying followers shows overall approach of the Creator to their pages, fake comments create an informational noise and discourage an open communication.

To avoid this, we always do a manual check of each channel and take a look into comments on the page, if they look real, does the Creator engage with their followers as well. Check average likes on their posts, and if the ones with higher likes and engagement have viable reasons behind it, or it looks like pushing ad posts or regular boosting to increase the average. 

We use tools like Hypeauditor, where we can see the following dynamic and determine any buying patterns (like high spikes in followed by drops, regular equal spikes in following), check  Audience type breakdown to see the share of real people and potentially fraudulent audiences, and overall quality score. Which has proven to be a very effective filter for us. 

2. Did you have an experience of collaborating with “Fake influencers”? What have you learned from this experience?

Yes, we had such experience, and it had proved to us the importance of fraud detection. We have seen that such collaborations bring much lower results in terms of generating interest in our brand and products, and in some cases even had a negative effect. With some Creators, they had a good reputation and we didn’t see the clear signs of fraud right away, only low performance after. 

Once we started to use the tools for all potential collaborations, we did check these pages and saw that they had a much lower quality score overall, and on many criteria such as following dynamic, comments authenticity and audience type were flagged already. 

After comparing their performance with even smaller but higher quality Creators, we once again were convinced that fraud check should always be performed before going into any collaboration.

Igor Fedenkoff | Co-founder and CEO a: Brybe, inc | Los Angeles | CA, USA

1. How do you avoid influencer fraud? (fake followers and engagement)

  • Our marketplace tracks engagement so the brand can see the quality of the influencer’s audience
  • If a brand is unsure about the quality of an influencer’s audience, they can message the account manager to start a conversation for a deeper look into the demographics of that particular influencer

2. Did you have an experience of collaborating with “Fake influencers”? What have you learned from the experience?

Yes, sometimes we do come across fake influencers, or influencers with a fake audience.

Since anyone can purchase followers, likes, or comments, it can sometimes be a challenge to identify influencers with fake followers. This can lead to few leads/clicks to a product, and a waste of time and money.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to analyze the audience before the purchase. Here’s how you can do this:

  • Check the engagement rate, are there enough comments for the number of likes in each post?
  • Read the comments. Do they sound like real ones, or are they mostly emojis or spam messages?
  • Follow the influencer a few days before purchasing the promo. You will see how active their audience is, and if they’re the right fit to accomplish your goals. Successful influencers love to show screenshots of other people’s questions or DM’s and interact with their audience.
  • You can invite an influencer to get paid on a CPA basis first, and if it works well – pay them the price originally requested!
  • There are different tools to check for ‘fake followers’, but the steps above should give you a basic idea if the majority of a following is engaged and ready for a call to action, or mostly fake.

Simona Truhanová | Influencer Marketing Strategist

It is very common that with the rise of influencer marketing (or with any other kind of boom), we are facing more and more fraudulent activities. I try to see it more as an opportunity than a curse. This kind of people make you stay 100% focused an aware, they help you to grow as an expert because you need to understand the data, you need to know who is real and who is disguised.

1. How do you avoid influencer fraud? (fake followers and engagement)

I see frauds on a daily basis. A lot of people dream about becoming a beloved influencer and a lot of them decide to take shortcuts instead of working hard. Most of the times, thanks to my experience, I can now look at a profile and say if he/she is authentic or not but sometimes it is a little bit more challenging, that’s why we use tools to uncover the lies.

2. Did you have an experience of collaborating with “Fake influencers”? What have you learned from this experience?

Yes, I have experienced working with fake influencers (with those that were not that obvious). It immediately shows on the performance. The CTR is very poor, engagement is low and overall communication tends to be unprofessional. I’ve learnt to pay more attention to the selection process and examine the profiles carefully.

Christie Childers | Influencer Marketing Specialist, Founder of Best Day Ever

1. How do you avoid influencer fraud? (fake followers and engagement)

The best way to avoid influencer fraud in your partnerships is to commit resources to working with a best in class software that provides audience authenticity data. Another tactic to gauge audience legitimacy is doing manual sentiment analysis across an influencers comment section in posts. If there are engagements are mostly containing only emojis or simple phrases like ‘pretty’ ‘love’ ‘cute’ – you’re likely looking at a post with comments cultivated from a bot farm. A majority of the comments should be making direct associations to the creative, as bots won’t have the sophistication to create more diverse language patterns.

2. Did you have an experience of collaborating with “Fake influencers”? What have you learned from this experience?

I have definitely been in situations where myself or my team loves the idea of a partner based on their content abilities and they ended up with a majority fake audience or purchased engagements. However as I’ve always been a data first marketer, I’ve been able to catch myself before booking anyone who’s audience lacks the integrity needed to run a true influence campaign. Still, it never gets less annoying when someone you’re excited to work with for creative imagery or video has a fake audience – just less shocking!

Ben Jeffries | CEO & Co-Founder at Influencer 

1. How are you avoiding influencer fraud?

Influencer has always taken influencer fraud incredibly seriously and our new technology, Waves, has enabled us to take this even further. We have a strict creator approval process, which through a combination of technology and human analysis ensures our clients only work with creators who don’t have a track record of providing fraudulent data. As a result, brands are able to fully understand the creators they are working with, and can form those all-important long term partnerships.

2. Did you have an experience of collaborating with “Fake influencers”? What have you learnt from the experience?

Whilst we haven’t had any experience of collaborating with fake influencers, we understand how brand safety can be threatened. Keeping your brand safe online has never been more important – with our increased reliance on digital coupled with eCommerce sales soaring through the roof, it’s crucial that a brand’s online presence is strong and reputable. And that’s why we here at Influencer are committed to helping brands minimise the risk of working with ‘fake influencers’, and ensure that their online reputation is protected at all times.

Christina Mangan | Senior Client Success Manager at Tailify

1. How do you avoid influencer fraud? (fake followers and engagement)

At Tailify we thoroughly vet our influencers before booking them to work with us on any of our campaigns.

Our vetting criteria consists of numerous stages from looking at the influencers audience credibility on various social vetting platforms to manually scrolling through the influencers accounts and reviewing the credibility of their engagements.

One of the easiest ways to spot if an influencers engagement rate is based off false engagements is through looking at their followers alongside reviewing if the majority of their likes are from bot accounts or actual credible accounts.

Influencers need to realise that they’re no longer able to fool people within the industry as agencies have become more savvy over the years and can spot “fake influencers” a mile off.

2. Did you have an experience of collaborating with “Fake influencers”? What have you learned from this experience?

Recently we had an influencer who at first glance looked brilliant – however upon further inspection her organic posts performed circa 100% better than her paid posts and we realised that she was using bots for her organic posts but wasn’t using them on her paid posts as she knew she would be in breach of contract for using any artificial bot to boost her likes/performance on paid posts and was trying to circumnavigate her way around it.

Needless to say she is now blacklisted from our agency.

How do you avoid influencer fraud? Please share your experience in the comments!

    1 Comment

  1. Jhon September 2, 2021 at 3:45 am

    Thanks for sharing this informative article.

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