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Social Native
Influencer Fraud

The Age of Authenticity: Combating Influencer Fraud

May 21, 2019

Jackie Giordano

One year…

That’s how long it’s been since Unilever’s former CMO, Keith Weed made a public call for change -- announcing that the CPG giant would no longer work with influencers who buy followers. Weed also committed to prioritizing partnerships with social platforms that are working to increase transparency within the digital ecosystem. In the words of Weed, “We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”

So, what has happened since?

Unfortunately, the digital space is still being cheated. And big brands -- with big dollars on the line -- continue to be misled by bots, Instagram pods, and social media users who indulge in buying followers and engagements to inflate their prices. Nevertheless, Weed has praised social platforms, including Instagram and Twitter, for working to improve fraud prevention technologies.

“We should all be encouraged by these steps to identify and address this type of activity,” Weed said.  “Instagram is one of the most popular social networks worldwide, and I very much support it taking action and removing inauthentic activity from its platform.”

Despite these efforts, though, there remains a lot of work to be done. For perspective, Sway Ops reported that on one given day, posts that were marked as #ad or #sponsored contained over 50% fake engagements and bots are responsible for over 40% of total comments for over 2,000 sponsored posts made each day.

Influencer Fraud

Needless to say, with over 95 million bots on Instagram alone, the line between real and fake has never been more blurred. And, the fact is, there’s absolutely no solution that’s 100% effective. So, we cannot promise that we’ve completely eradicated influencer fraud in the past 365 days. However, we can promise that Social Native’s prevention technology is ahead of the curve, and we’re doing everything within our power to bring greater transparency to the influencer space.

Whether you’re a brand, an agency, or a creator, there’s one thing we can all agree on: It’s time for influencers to be held accountable. Below are some considerations Social Native is taking to monitor fraud and improve the influencer process:

Look out for flags
Barriers to entry are lower than ever in the influencer space, and with that has come the rise of “hacks” for people to increase followers and engagements as a way to secure brand partnerships. For this reason, we have a number of indicators that we use to flag potential fraud accounts:

  • Engagement-to-Followers Ratio: Large discrepancies between followers and engagements may signal fake/bought followers (i.e. an influencer has thousands of followers but is driving less than 100 likes and comments on their posts).
  • Growth Over Time: Significant, unexplained growth in followers and/or engagements over a short period of time is another red flag.
  • Unrelated Engagements: Watch for suspicious comments/hashtags (i.e #likeforlike) from suspicious usernames. Engagements that don’t pertain to the post content can be indicators of bots.
  • Content Quality/Frequency: Keep an eye out for instances when the quality/frequency of an influencer’s content doesn’t measure up to the quantity of their engagements/followers. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Authentic Influencers

Prioritize engagement, not reach  
Social Native partners with smaller scale influencers who are passionate about the work they’re doing and focused on ensuring the content they create aligns with their personal brand and follower's interests. Micro-influencers might have significantly smaller followings than their celebrity counterparts. However, their ability to engage their audience and drive meaningful results is significant.

Leverage technology
Social Native leverages AI tools as well as human analysis to ensure the integrity of our creators before they join our team. Each creator is given an authenticity score which can be viewed on our platform. The score is developed through a number of factors including:

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Audience Authenticity: We use a combination of comment analysis, engagement and demographics to break down a creator’s followers. This helps us distinguish between real people, mass followers and incentivized followers.

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Audience Growth Origin: We evaluate the creator to identify potentially incentivized follower growth both using tools and human analysis.

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Engagement Authenticity: Using a combination of the creator’s own engagements along with a comparison to similar accounts, we are able to ensure creators have authentic engagement on their content. Additionally, we evaluate other metrics such as comment authenticity to detect and limit Instagram Pod activity.

In sum, at Social Native, we saw Unilever’s announcement as a necessary purge to bring influencer marketing back to the fundamentals upon which it was founded -- finding creators to champion your brand message. Our Premium Audience Score functionality empowers brands to define their own tolerance thresholds. In such an environment, there will be no room for deception.

Premium Influencers