All that glitters is not gold in the influencer world. Some influencers are not influencing anyone nowadays, they are losing their power to affect purchase decisions of others — and to be honest I believe they didn’t have any power in the first place.
The lack of credibility behind these internet figures is undeniable. They would do whatever it takes to stay relevant, from posting pictures living a lavish life to fake engagement proposals, most influencers have done it all, but the ultimate ploy behind these Instagrammers is the amount of fake comments and likes they are buying to trick people, especially companies, on believing they have the authority, knowledge, position or even the relationship to sell their audience products and services they probably don’t consume.
Diet Prada, an Instagram account dedicated to call out the knock offs, revealed how Arielle Noa Charnas’ comment section was packed with bots commenting under a post about a fashion collaboration Chamas secured with Nordstrom. “On a closer inspection of her $10 million investment announcement post yesterday, a drove of suspicious accounts, most with on-brand usernames for a mommy blogger audience, were found to have commented identical messages — always positive, often directed at Charnas herself, and sometimes even referencing products that she’s not even wearing in the image (“Shoes are awesome! Arielle”, “Umm..ordering NOW!”)” reads Diet Prada’s post. “Peeping the feeds of these accounts, several of them shared the same content mined from real accounts, a common method used by companies selling fake followers.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Recently, The New York Times reported how influencers and even politicians use bots to artificially inflate their Twitter accounts. According to the publication, a new research from the University of Southern California and the Indiana University, shows how an American company named Devumi has collected millions of dollars in social media fraud. USC researchers wrote that they estimate that “between 9% and 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots,” which means that as many as 48 million Twitter accounts aren’t people.
Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, revealed that up to 60 million automated accounts may be wandering their platforms, and they are acting against it. “These systems use a combination of signals such as patterns of using suspicious email addresses, suspicious actions, or other signals previously associated with other fake accounts we’ve removed,” said Alex Schultz, Facebook analytics vice president, in a blog post.
“A lot of the harmful content we see, including misinformation, are in fact commercially motivated,” Zuckerberg told reporters. “So one of the best tactics is removing incentives to create fake accounts upstream, which limits content made downstream.”
“If you use Facebook to communicate with family and friends, you should not worry much,” said Filippo Menczer, from Indiana University. “If you use it to access news and share that with friends, you should be careful.”
Senator Mark Warner, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a board that has been investigating the plague of fake accounts on social media. “The continued viability of fraudulent accounts and interactions on social media platforms — and the professionalization of these fraudulent services — is an indication that there’s still much work to do,” he said.
According to Famoid, a platform that provides users the possibility of buying followers and likes, the accounts that have at least ten thousand followers can make money. For many, the amount of likes in your Instagram account dictates your popularity, and this couldn’t be farther than the reality. Even though it sounds pretty awesome and making a lot of money just for promoting a lipstick can be considered one of the best jobs in the world, you need more than followers, especially if companies can now use a tool to separate the real from the fake.
HypeAuditor revealed that over 70% of influencers make this type of purchases that can cost up to a thousand dollars while just in 2017, about $1.5 to $2 billion dollars were paid globally to the influencer marketing industry. With so much money in the game and the ongoing lack of honesty from influencers, they are offering a technology that uses “machine learning to find behavior patterns that correspond with real people versus automated bots or sporadic usage.” Companies can use the HypeAuditor services to get in-depth analysis of the quality of audience and find fake or ghost followers numbers, plus an evaluation of the percentage of target age group and gender.
Brands are taking things slowly when it comes to offering deals. They are aware of the situation and fighting back. Keith Weed, Unilever‘s Chief Marketing Officer, announced that “the company is pushing for greater transparency in the influencer marketing space to combat fraud in the digital ecosystem; create better experiences for customers; and improve brands’ ability to measure impact.”
Bluntly, Unilever made it clear that they will not work with influencers who buy followers and will prioritise partners who increase transparency. “The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact. We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever,” Weed added.
“Consumers are getting smarter by the day,” said social media monetization expert, Oliver Talamayan, to Forbes. “Viewers don’t care about your followers; they care about the value you bring to their lives on a daily basis,” he said. “Do you enrich their lives or are you just another annoying thing popping up on their phones? Nowadays, consumers have stronger ‘authenticity’ radars, and can sniff that something is ‘off’.” Talamayan also added that fake followers just “bring is a temporary feeling of status and fame. On the other hand, real, loyal, and high-quality followers bring business, referrals and relevant feedback.”
In May, people suggested that the “influencer bubble is bursting” after an influencer from Miami with 2.6 million followers, shared in a since deleted post, that she will discontinuing her own clothing line because she couldn’t sell even thirty-six shirts. “Breaks my heart to have to write this post,” she wrote on Instagram. “As y’all know I released my brand. I’ve poured my heart into this drop… But unfortunately the company that I’m working with goes based on your first drop sales.”
“No one has kept their word so now the company won’t be able to send out the orders to people who actually bought s*** and it breaks my heart. The people I thought who would support me, really didn’t nor did they share any of my posts (all I asked for), sounds b****y but like no shade to anyone, I’ve supported everyone’s music or whatever they’ve asked for my support on and I couldn’t even get it in return,” she added.
After her failed attempt to become part of the fashion industry many people took to social media to discuss the situation. “The truth is that her followers aren’t her customers. Understanding who will actually buy from you and what they will buy is a key business lesson,” wrote Tamara on Twitter.
“Skimming her ig, it looks like she just didn’t have a real ‘brand’ other than taking cute photos of herself, there was no videos, no comedy, nothing inspirational. I think she mistook people liking her aesthetic as ‘a brand’, said another user on Twitter.
Recently, Instagram notified that will be hiding the amount of “Likes” on each post to avoid social pressure and reduce anxiety. Users in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Canada and New Zealand were among the firsts to live a social media life without the counts of likes and video views.
“We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram Facebook’s at the Facebook’s annual event for developers. “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about.”
While some users are still shaken by the news, like chef Adam Liaw who said the change was a “huge mistake,” many artists and models welcomed Instagram’s decision. “I get so many messages of young girls in school who say how down they are and feel like they’re not good enough because their peers get more likes than them,” said model Rozanna Purcell. “We have enough things in society to compare ourselves to, so getting rid of numbers can only be a good thing.”
It is unknown when “Likes” and “Views” metrics will disappear for good worldwide, or whether if it’s possible that in the future the public display of the amount of followers will be visible just for the owner of the account, but what is certainly true is that quality always will be much appreciated than quantity and passion and honesty are definitely the bonus components to succeed in a world that slowly but steadily is realizing that social media life is not necessarily real life.