Debunking Studies on Fake Followers
Inaccurate Claims of Influencers with "Fake" Audiences
I have to get something off my chest. It couldn't wait until next week. It's eating at me, and I need to just get it out. Recently, as in two days ago, one of my friends in the PR world informed me of a new business in the influencer marketing space. The creator of this business comes from a background of influencer platforms, and has created a "magical software" that labels every single influencer. By labeling, there's two options. FRAUD or not. When I heard this information, I didn't think anything of it. I thought "okay, I'm glad I'm hearing about this but we've had this in place with Fohr." Fohr has analyzed various audiences, and labeled different influencers as having verified audiences versus some not having verified audiences. Most people in the space have referred to Fohr for the standard.
As my conversation continued, I was informed that due to my participation in two recent beauty campaigns, my name is on a list. Being on a list is never a good thing. Have you ever been "on a list" and it be a good thing? ...well I haven't. When it came down to this list, it showed all the influencers' who participated in several different campaigns, and then the level of "fraudulent" accounts following each particular influencer. Basically this company has written out the amount of bots and spam accounts each influencer has, and put that percentage next to their name. This list is then sent to PR agencies, and their clients (i.e. the brands influencers work with) to ensure these influencers are considered two times over before a brand decides to pay them. Want to know the percentage next to my name? 85% bots and spam in regards to my audience. When I was informed about this, I honestly just laughed. 85% of my instagram audience is deemed to be spam by this random company's software, which is 150% inaccurate. If you check out my profile on Fohr, you will see that they only list 3% of my audience as bots which is healthy. It's inevitable that there will be a small percentage of bot accounts. Under 10% and you are typically in the green. Unfortunately this company stating my audience is fake is inaccurate.
As I read through the specifications about the calculations, I instantly knew it was garbage. One of the "biggest determining factors of bot accounts" is if people comment in a language other than the native language of the influencer. Therefore if someone commented in Spanish, Bosnian, Russian, it would be considered A SPAM ACCOUNT. This would also include if accounts are specific to a particular country. If they live in Mexico, and they follow me, they are considered spam for me which is preposterous. Even if that was the reasoning, I would still have more than 50% of an audience, but again the claim is that 85% is bots. This has annoyed me so much since I found out this was happening, because as you can imagine, PR companies and brands getting an ambiguous list from a bullshit marketer trying to sell software to their team is useless given it's wrong. I have never bought sketchy followers from a random website.
The industry is split when it comes to giveaways. If you consider large giveaways buying followers, then I have "bought followers" but they are real people and true accounts. When you enter a giveaway, you need to take several actions to enter you into the giveaway. Therefore, it is clear the accounts are real people and not bots. I can confidently say my audience is real, and a creator of a platform that says my audience is 85% fake is the fraud. Also, someone cannot magically create software that analyzes audiences in the blink of an eye because so many factors must be considered before making such a bold claim.
With this intel, I want influencers, PR firms and brands to heed with caution. This is something you should have been doing already, but at this point, do not write off influencers on an ambiguous list because a stranger tells you the followers are fake. My followers are not fake, and in fact they have chosen to follow me. Just because someone does not log into Instagram every single day, doesn't comment on every single photo I've ever posted or lives in a different country than I, does not mean they are fake or non-legitimate accounts. I know my audience, and I see the DMs coming in every day from my engaged users. People from all over the world are engaging in my content every day. I have been doing this for over 5 1/2 years and amongst all the giveaways, all kinds of accounts have chosen to engage. I even have a good chunk of a male audience following along with my travels. They could care less about my fashion or beauty choices, but they love the travel recommendations. My biggest point here is that just because someone was acquired through a giveaway does not make them any less real to a brand or to me. They have the option to unfollow.
If a brand or PR firm has a question about stats, I provide screenshots. That's never been a problem, so if the influencer campaigns have been slow for you recently, it's because this firm is going to every single PR firm and listing out influencers who they have classified as having a fake audience. Many brands are now terrified of investing money with any influencer until they have a more secure understanding of how this platform is calculating percentages. Since the industry accepted platform has been Fohr, and Fohr's numbers do not align anywhere close to this new firm's, I am convinced this new platform will be a mute thought in a few months. I know the percentage next to my name is false, but regardless, it will need to be looked into before brands choose to work with me and any other influencer, moving forward.
Given this is effecting our work, it is an issue that needs to be solved. The best way for it to be solved is for brands and PR firms to do their research and not to trust a platform that has labeled myself and several other honest hard-working influencers as having disgenuine audiences. Since I have over 500,000 followers, I have an audience from all over the world. Some of my biggest markets are Mexico and Russia. Just because the US is not my only audience does not mean that is a bad thing, and nowadays to be a brand ambassador, brands want global reach. I could write about the inconsistencies for hours, but I'll leave my main points below.
Reasons to Rule Out this Platform
- Comments being made in languages that are not the influencer's country of residence. This is clearly not a good measure given I am Bosnian, I speak Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and understand Russian. I also speak Spanish and I did take 3 years of French. I have done blog posts in Spanish too, so different languages on my page are accepted. This is a poor metric to classify someone having a "fake" audience.
- Seeing accounts who have commented similar comments on other people's photos. This is another poor metric because when we do giveaways, we ask that people say "done!" or comment something specific so we know who is officially entered. Additionally on the flip side, I comment on my friends' photos and I say similar things about outfits. I mean how many ways can you say someone looks cute. "This is so cute!!" "You're the cutest!" and then I in turn would be labeled a fake account for someone else's audience. This is another poor metric to classify someone as having a "fake audience."
- My audience demographics are broken out right here so if anyone was curious, the information is available to all brands. These numbers are being pulled from Demographics Pro, which is a legitimate platform breaking down the stats.
- Giveaways do not yield fake followers. They have become widely accepted in the industry, which is ironic because when I started doing them everyone jumped down my throat but now everyone wants the contacts of the individuals who host group giveaways. It's cheaper to have 20 people put money together towards a Gucci bag to give to their followers, than for one person to pay the full price and then give it away. I have a lot of information about giveaways, so if you'd like me to do a separate post about this, please let me know. Happy to give you the details and blow your mind with information about them.
- You can't fake sales and you also cannot fake campaign results. I've brought hundreds of people to a brand's website, gained a brand genuine and true Instagram followers, gotten DMs about the brand and inquisitive questions about various products... these are the calls to action that show true colors when it comes to an influencer. These cannot be faked, and I can promise you I have provided these results to brands time and time again.