Don’t let your brand be #Instafooled

Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Vamp - Just Entrepreneurs.jpg

Guest article by Aaron Brooks, CEO of Vamp


Consumers have never had so many products and services to choose from. In this competitive space, trust is more important to corporates than ever to encourage loyalty and entice potential customers. Yet companies are increasingly coming under fire for fabrication. This puts emphasis on brands – and their partners – to work harder to maintain consumer confidence.

The rise of social media influencers taps into consumers’ desire to find authentic voices to make genuine recommendations that help them navigate the market. However the landscape has been tainted by several scandals, from the much-publicised Fyre Festival fiasco last year, to more recent reports suggesting that some influencers’ audiences may not be entirely genuine.

Social media technology and marketers Hypetap found that 15.5% of a sample of 10,000 global influencer profiles have a fake or disengaged following, totalling more than a fifth of their audience. 

But brands cannot, and indeed should not, renounce influencer marketing. Social media use is exploding. In January 2018, 21 million Instagram users in the UK were recorded, compared to just 14 million in 2016 from Instagram’s last report. Snapchat users were up to 25% of UK smartphone users with just 21% recorded in 2016.

The fact that 57% of consumers have made purchases online after reading a product review or being influenced on social media also proves that, despite these scandals, it works. These huge audiences are engaged and open to influence. 

Social platforms are also making efforts to eliminate the fakery. Last year, Facebook shut down several paid services that aided “fake” accounts and bots to artificially inflate follower numbers and auto-generate comments. Then in February, Snapchat launched an in-app analytics tool, offering certain influencers access to data on their audiences and Stories’ performance. This will ultimately support them in being more transparent, help prove they have genuine audiences and win sponsorships.

Brands are continuing to respond, with a study by Tomson finding that nearly two thirds (59%) of brands are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months. In our experience, the content produced by influencer talent can outperform brand created content in paid social media channels (sponsored post or ads) by two to one.



But to protect brands, companies should prioritise verifying potential partners. At a minimum, they need to identify fake accounts. A high follower count, but low engagement rate; inappropriate, out-of-context or repetitive comments; and accounts that seem too new for the number of followers should all set alarm bells ringing. 


Brands should do three things to avoid being #Instafooled

1. Focus on identifying locally-relevant talent. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Micro or mid-size influencers may have less followers, but are likely to have more clout with a loyal, engaged and relevant audience. This is particularly true for fashion and beauty brands where consumers want to know what the current global trends are, but they want to be spoken to in local terms.

2. As with any business decision, auditing is key. Brands need to scour influencer accounts to find the ones that offer authenticity and depth of engagement – which relies heavily on how they built their audience. Quality content beats sheer volume every time, as does a follower base organically grown through a genuine association with brands that align with an influencer’s online persona and interests.

3. Companies must look for this natural affinity between the values of the influencer and the brand. Not only will that ensure the values promoted are the same, it will enable influencers to do so on their own terms, allowing creativity and publicity to combine naturally to maximum effect.

With more people recognising just how lucrative being an influencer can be, the race is on among social media users to try and claim a slice of the pie. Brands need to be on their guard and prioritise finding authentic, truly engaged leaders in their communities to make the most of the influencer marketing wave.