Brands pay influencers billions of dollars annually to promote their goods and services on top social media platforms. However, a good deal of this money goes down to drain since some influencers tend to inflate their ratings and artificially increase the number of followers. These tweaks and tricks may cost advertisers $1.3 billion this year, according to a joint report from Roberto Cavazos, an economist at the University of Baltimore, and cybersecurity company Cheq.
People can make some money by promoting brands on social media platforms even if they have 500 followers. However, the bigger the audience, the greater the impact and the anticipated earnings.
Thus, some YouTubers and Instagrammers buy fake subscribers and pay for bots to like their posts or leave comments. These ghost votes and followers make them look more influential than they really are and allow them to demand higher fees for promotional material.
According to the report, “micro-influencers,” or people with 10,000 or so followers, can get $250 for a sponsored post, while social media stars with millions of followers earn as much as $250,000 per publication.
This industry is a lucrative business, which is why it attracts bad actors who use bots and click farms to inflate their engagement figures.
“It used to be you had to be a Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner kind of person to be an influencer. Now there are so many “tiers of influencers” that people with very niche followings can get involved in the business,” said Daniel Avital, strategy chief at Cheq.
According to Avital, the issue has nothing to do with cybersecurity as it is quite easy to understand if an influencer’s followers are real or not. Thus, low engagement, few likes, and zero comments under the posts of someone who claims to have the tens of thousands of followers can be considered a red flag as it indicates lack of in the content.
From this perspective, Instagram’s recent decision to hide likes may help clean up the influencer marketing industry. According to Bob Gilbreath, general manager at social media marketing company Ahalogy, this step would de-incentivize fraudulent activities.