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How to Identify Fake Followers in 2020

In 2019 alone there was an estimated $100 million lost to influencer fraud. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been around for over a decade, the world of influencer marketing is still the wild wild west. If you aren’t cautious when structuring your influencer deal, you could find yourself swindled out of some serious dough.

For many influencers, a high number of followers goes hand-in-hand with a big paycheck from brand deals. If an influencer can’t attract genuine followers on their own, the only way up is to fake it. Inflating follower numbers and engagement is easy; hundreds of websites specialize in selling fake social media interactions. You can buy followers, likes, comments, views. Whatever an influencer needs to impress sponsors, they can buy.  The New York Times conducted an expose in 2018 with results suggesting that American company Devumi has sold 3.5 million fake accounts, directly resulting in 200 million fake Twitter accounts. Millions of fraudulent activity circulating just from one company, costing buyers only pennies apiece, but brands end up losing millions over it in the long run.

When brands first began sponsored posts with influencers, influencer fraud was unheard of (but doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening). Brands were more trusting, and not as well-versed in the world of influencer marketing. They trusted the numbers they saw and didn’t know what to expect at the end of a campaign. Influencer deals today might require case studies, engagement proof, referrals, and may even go as far as running an influencer’s account on analytic tools built specifically to detect fraudulent audiences or activities. Sophisticated tools, such as Tensor Social, use artificial intelligence to identify and count fake followers.

Referred to as ‘audience credibility’, tools like Tensor can identify if an account has bought followers in the past. Often referred to as ‘ghost followers’, fake followers compared to genuine followers are evaluated to identify an influencers audience credibility. The higher percentage of credibility, the more genuine followers the influencer has. While an account might have never purchased fake followers, their audience credibility could still be less than 100% (usually as a result of deleted accounts or repurposed accounts). Tensor suggests to only be concerned with audience credibility if the percentage is under 85. For quick, easy, and free audience credibility checks, you can use Tensor's Reports to verify an influencer before signing a deal.

Influencer fraud may rule the marketing world for years to come. But with proper research and reports, you can position yourself in a safer position when approaching influencer deals. At the end of the day, the only numbers that can be trusted is the data. Be safe with your marketing spend and take the necessary precautions to audit influencers who work with for fake followers.

Beth Lambdin, Team Tensor