Aldo Agostinelli

Fake influencers can seriously jeopardize one’s business. And marketers are done with investing their money in profitless promotions. It was Keith Weed, chief marketing officer of Unilever, a company worth 7 billion dollars a year of advertising, to mercilessly open the Pandora’s box. As published by The Drum, Weed has recently called for a prompt cleaning operation of the advertising sector, affecting both influencers and social media. And the biggest brands have followed, showing a long term discontent.

The point is that the cost of  influencers is growing, as well as the related budgets, but there are no standard criteria to judge their effectiveness; therefore, the less dedicated ones, for instance those who buy followers who actually don’t produce any real engagement, can make easy money without consequences (Cheatsheet: What you need to know about influencer fraud).

The first serious hurdle is distinguishing real accounts from fake ones: easier said than done, almost an impossible mission. To the point that estimates reveal a 15% of fake accounts on Twitter and 60 million bots on Facebook, but these figures  are not official, and they may be much higher than that.

Despite the fact that all social media are being monitored, the one we should worry the most about is Instagram. According to Sway Ops, every single day, sponsored posts are commented by 50% of fake followers, while 40% of comments comes from  bots. According to Socialyse, one of Havas divisions, at least 10-20% of interactions on this visual social network involve a software instead of real people.

This results in the fact that, according to Points North Group surveys, when it comes to the biggest brands such as  Magnum or Pampers, the fake engagement percentage starts from 19% and reaches up to an outrageous 72% (Influencer marketing fraud – how big a problem is it?).

Faced with such a scenario, wise marketers should run for the hills. But they don’t. As said before, influencer marketing is actually growing. Mediakix has estimated its worth to be over 1 billion dollars  in 2017, and in 2018 such figures are bound to increase. Dishonest or not, people love influencers. To the point that most marketers are willing to spend up to 85 thousand Euros for having their brand mentioned in a post by a single user with over  one million followers, and about 1.700 for one by a micro-influencer.

In a recent survey conducted among its members, the Association of National Advertisers has revealed that 75% of marketers are currently working with  influencers, 43% of them has already increased their budget for next year, and 27% of those who have not tried co-operating with influencers, yet are planning to do it in the next 12 months. Is everybody happy then? Apparently not, considering that only 36% of the interviewees deems influencer marketing to be efficient!

Surely enough, if agencies don’t’ adopt an assessment standard for influencers, and social media don’t become more transparent, the fight against fakes will be fought case by case, privately. In the meantime, the Internet Advertising Bureau has updated its guides to good practice to help marketers and influencers to better understand the rules and, hopefully, respect them.

How important are influencers in your product strategy? I would like to read your comments. Tweet @agostinellialdo.

To find out more about the digital world, you may read my latest book entitled: “People Are Media” 

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Aldo Agostinelli