We all read in the papers that some parents in the US paid money to universities so their children would get into them. We all knew that this is fraud, no explanation was needed.
Influencer marketing remains one of the hot new things in marketing. Brands pay successful Instagrammers with a high following, large amounts of money, in the hope these Influencers find the right people to buy their products from them. Instagrammers see this as an easy way to generate an income. They buy followers, organize commenting pods, and leave fake comments to gain followers. All the activities make them appear successful, and as if they are at the helm of a large fan group. A small group can create a buzz, and to outsiders, it can easily look as if they are indeed influential.
Do we really know who we are talking to on Instagram, and do we really know who arranges what with whom and how? No marketer can factually know whether the demographics, as in age, gender, family status are what they seem to be. In a time where people believe that literally everything goes, we know that everything is possible.
Engagement in the millions – Everybody involved just wants high numbers
Campaigns can look good on paper, the moment Instagrammers report back that engagement was in the millions, is fantastic. Everybody just wants high numbers. Brands naturally look for Instagrammers with a high following and often employ PR companies to arrange corporations with Instagrammers. As the intermediary, the PR companies know well how to best impress their clients, and in a rush, they also simply search for Instagrammers with a high following.
Everybody involved just wants high numbers. No one seems to worry where this behaviour is going to end.
Instagrammers arrange follower trains on Twitter, and they make them look harmless “Looking for inspiration on Instagram, please leave your handle below, and we can all follow each other”.
Together come hundreds and hundreds of likes and followers, and if you look closely, you are going to see the pattern, and that it is always the same users. Communities grow fast and end up being one large tribe. And as it all happens on social media, it stays exactly there within the tribe. Members of the community share content, and ‘like’ every content posted, but they aren’t the buyers.
The question is how to reach those customers and clients outside of that constructed bubble, and how to generate sales. Otherwise brands end up with millions of fake likes, fake comments, fake accounts, and with that generally lots of fake customers.
Conclusion – Working with ethical social media marketers pays off
Instagrammers should ask themselves whether they want to run an account as a business, and why they see the need to employ performance enhancing measures, and whether they understand that a faked Instagram account is fraud?
Before employing an Instagrammer, brands need to clarify, whether these buy followers, or ever bought followers, whether they buy likes or ever bought likes, whether Instagrammers engage in commenting pods or like groups, whether Instagrammers understand what a promotion is, and that they would need to mark promotional posts as advertising.
Engaging performance enhancing measures is one thing, denying these, that takes the whole thing one step further. It needs more of the criminal energy that Influencers who want to beat the algorithm probably not have.
When all is arranged, brands or PR agencies must ask Influencers to sign an ethical policy contract. That together with thorough Influencer audience analytics leads everyone involved closer to a successful cooperation.
Straightening things out might look insurmountable now. No one should sell their soul, only because they dream of beating the algorithm. There lays potential in Influencer Marketing.
Instagrammers should go clean, with starting the faked Instagram account again from scratch. An apology isn’t enough. Instagrammers who fake their accounts and who want to be taken serious need to better walk the talk and show how great the quality of their work is. Brands should understand that engagement can be enhanced easily and working with Social Media Marketer’s faked Instagram accounts can do real harm to the brand’s reputation.
Remember the parents who pay universities to get their children in? One can’t finger point to the parents who bribe universities, and then not be any better. A reputation for questionable ethical behaviour plus a wasted budget. Who wants to take responsibility for that?