It’s not a secret for anybody that Instagram influencer marketing is exploding in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down. In June 2018, Instagram reached 1 billion monthly active users (Yes, you read it right – 1 billion!), and this has made influencer marketing even more attractive for brand-influencer collaborations. But, is it safe to spend a part of the budget in this form of marketing? What about influencer marketing fraud? What if after spending thousands of dollars in influencer campaigns companies are unable to see success due to fake influencers?

A multi-billion-dollar industry is a perfect place for dishonest people to line their pockets illicitly. This is why before starting with a campaign, brands need to be aware of influencers who buy followers, likes and comments, or maybe don’t provide true information about their accounts like engagement rates. Also, there is a new trend around “aspiring influencers” adopting a strategy where they fake sponsored content to make them look like real ads, due to the belief that “the more sponsors you have, the more credibility you have”. Some brands are delighted with this free promotion, but many others are very concerned with the fact that some people appearing to be brand ambassadors could ultimately damage their business’s reputation.

So, what do brands need to look out for when deciding to start an influencer marketing campaign to have success and also safeguard their brand value? Here are some key factors that you cannot miss:

Recently, what was considered most important was the engagement rate, the higher the engagement rate, the better the influencer was. But now, some apps that are able to alter this number are available, so it’s important to know the difference between real engagement and fake engagement.

It’s crucial to verify the influencers´ background to ensure that they are not participating in fraudulent activity on social media, and to do so, their accounts need to be analyzed. It is well known that high following with super low engagement is the first alarm signal. Also, comments unrelated to the post or non-engaged comments such as lots of emojis, may be from paid accounts. As well as many comments from the same person indicates they are buying engagement.

Another point to consider is the number of likes or comments. Authentic accounts have a variety of engagement across their posts, which means that having the same number on every photo is very strange and unlike to happen.

As you can see there are many things to take into consideration, so it will always be a good idea to hire an influencer marketing focused agency to be in charge of this verification process. They are the experts identifying the best influencers for your brand. For example, at Efluenz we are increasingly emphasizing our abilities to detect fraudulent behaviour and we verify the authenticity of each of our influencers to ensure brand’s safety and to maximize the ROI.

Additionally, we have a personal relationship with all of our influencers, so we know who’s the best fit for every campaign and we choose influencers that have a close relationship with their audience as well. We work with nano & micro influencers whose audience can truly relate to and easily engages with them. They have much more credibility when they advertise as they actually relate to the service they are promoting and the niche they cover. Proximity is key to successful campaign, and since this category of influencers is surrounded by real people, they are seen as trustworthy as well as experts.

After all, trust is a fragile thing. It is easy to break, easy to lose, and one of the hardest things to ever get back. Nowadays in social media, as a brand or as an influencer, you can become anyone you want to be, but the bad thing is that at some point the truth will come out and maybe it will be too late to convince your followers to trust you again. It sounds like a huge risk, don’t you think?