II: How much do you think fraud is impacting Influencer Marketing? With continued growth, will fraud continue to grow?
GE: Just like any other form of digital marketing, influencer marketing is extremely susceptible to fraud. In fact, the whole industry is structured in a way that encourages influencers to inflate their numbers – both follower and engagement numbers by paying for bots to follow them or engage with their post. Some might argue that, like in sports, the fact that a large number of participants take performance enhancing drugs requires anyone who wants to remain competitive to take them as well. The same applies to influencers inflating their online presence, and this is just getting worse.
II: Where do you see fraud most prominently in the Influencer Marketing sector? Why this platform?
GE: Number inflation is prevalent across the board. Instagram is particularly susceptible to violations as brands have very limited tools to measure campaigns – there are no outgoing links to track and limited information on actual views. Vanity metrics like ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ are easy to manipulate, and influencers do it intentionally and unintentionally.
II: Through the growth of Influencer Marketing, how are platforms going to label, prevent, or simplify fraud?
GE: Social networking platforms haven’t shown any inclination to take action. They have enough to worry about with traditional advertising, and one can argue that they aren’t doing a great job of preventing fraud there either.
Influencer networks or marketplaces share the incentive for bad behavior. They want the biggest influencers making the most money.
Third party platforms that focus on data and analytics like HYPR will have to do the job for them.
II: Do you think programmatic is a pressure point when it comes to measuring Influencer Marketing? What is the most effective way to track and monetize Influencer Marketing?
GE: There currently is no efficient Influencer Marketing solution that truly operates programmatically. The industry might be moving that way, and if it does, those platforms will be the first to suffer from fraud unless they can develop ways to identify fraud effectively. Like traditional digital marketing, it will be a never-ending race because fraud results in significant amounts of money changing hands with limited risk to the perpetrator.
A proper solution (programmatic or otherwise) will ensure that payment is only made after results have been verified against fraud. There are multiple technologies that can do it. We take an audience sample and look for red flags – significant lack of activity, following of other accounts that are known to be bots or fraudulent, odd locations (a huge audience in a random country), and specific language analysis algorithms that identify out-of-context or grammatically-incorrect behavior.
II: How has fraud muted the impact of Influencer Marketing? How will the industry move past this friction?
GE: Influencer marketing is in its infancy, and as a result, brands are unaware of the scale of fraud taking place. As they become more familiar, they will demand evidence to support validity of audiences and campaigns. Tools are being built in anticipation of these requirements, and we see with our clients that they are changing the business model to ensure payment is made after results are delivered.
For the industry to survive the massive levels of fraud, it will need to develop tools that measure true value and shift away from vanity metrics – tools that speak in the traditional digital language. Cost per click, conversion rates and ROI, as opposed to ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘comments.’
Author: Ayla Quinn