The End of Instagram Fraud? Independent Vetting Makes Fake Followers a Thing of the Past

Have you used influencer marketing? This type of social media marketing uses endorsements and product mentions from people who have a dedicated social following. These people are known as influencers, and they are often seen as experts in their niche. Influencer marketing can help brands drive sales and reach a wider audience because people who follow influencers often have a high amount of trust in that person. So, they’re more likely to buy a product or service that is recommended by them. Unfortunately, the upside to influencer marketing comes with the downside of influencer fraud. Read on to learn more about Instagram fraud and how independent vetting like Sylo is making it a thing of the past:

What is Instagram Fraud? 

Influencer marketing strategies are challenging to navigate for companies because they often negotiate a rate per post with little way of determining if they got what they paid for. One reason it’s difficult to calculate ROI is due to Instagram fraud. Instagram fraud typically occurs when an influencer lies about the size of their following and how many likes and comments each post gets. Many influencers feel pressured to have large followings with lots of engagement to secure brand deals, so they purchase fake followers and use bot accounts to like and comment. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to do this. All you have to do is type “buy followers” or “buy likes” into Google, and there are more than 5 million websites that allow you to purchase likes and followers with the click of a button.

Of course, fake followers and bots are not real people even though they can like and comment on a photo just like a real person. Thus, the problem is bot accounts will never buy from your business! Many businesses end up wasting their advertising budget on influencers with fake audiences. In fact, a study conducted by Professor Roberto Cavazos, who spoke at Sylo’s Influencer Fraudnomics Summit in 2019, found that “at least 15% of advertisers’ spending on influencer marketing is lost to fraud, costing them $1.3 billion annually.” Yikes!

Unfortunately, current solutions fall short of combatting this kind of fraud because most readily available influencer reports are based on scraped data collected without influencer permission. This estimated data is often incomplete and inaccurate and these cheaply available metrics do not effectively reduce ad-spend waste or assist in identifying KPI’s that drive ROI.

How Has the Pandemic Changed the Game?

Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, the founder of PR and marketing agency TishTash, says that although engagement rates for influencers have increased during the pandemic, brands worldwide are cutting their marketing budgets. This is why “micro-influencers” are gaining popularity. Micro-influencers are people with a smaller following of between 10,000 to 20,000 people. However, these audiences tend to be more loyal and engaged. 

The problem is that brands have found it increasingly challenging to verify micro-influencers’ ethics due to what we at Sylo see as the vicious cycle of influencer marketing. Brands want influencers to get to a certain level of massive following, but they lose that affinity with their audience once they do. Luckily, independent vetting can automate the process and help relieve  stress on internal resources like freeing up more time to hit enough micro-influencers at scale.  

How Will the Rise of Independent Vetting Continue to Create Change?

If marketers continue to make decisions without adequate data and information, they will continue to spend their budget dollars on fake audiences. Only when brands, agencies, and influencers come together and designate a standard solution, such as Sylo, will the industry’s problems finally be addressed. By using independent, authenticated data to verify influencer audiences and content performance, Sylo provides the tools and insights necessary to tackle the industry’s fraud problem, and more!

When marketers have access to the highest quality vetting on the market, they will immediately avoid almost all of the 15% loss to fraud that CHEQ uncovered. With Sylo preventing fraudulent influencers from winning campaign contracts, ROI’s will increase, trust will grow, and more money will be spent in the market. With the burden of avoiding fraud removed, resources will be freed up, allowing marketers to focus on optimizing their programs, and building on sustained success. The data transparency and insight that Sylo provides will support marketers in these efforts as well, for example: with access to verified performance benchmarks, negotiations will be more transparent, and pricing can be set based on performance, not follower counts.

The independent vetting that Sylo provides will effectively eliminate influencer fraud allowing brands to see better results, allocate more money to the industry, and drive growth!

Contact Sylo Today

Whether you’re a creator or a brand, Sylo works for you! If you’re ready to see an ROI on your influencer marketing campaigns and leave Instagram fraud behind then, you need to get in touch with us today! Book your demo and find out how easy it is to add Sylo to your workflow and get the results you need! 

Fake Followers on my Instagram Account – Does it Really Matter Long Term?

Instagram launched in 2010 and has soared in growth and popularity since its inception! Now influencers are more popular than ever on the social media platform, and many brands want to engage in influencer marketing campaigns. However, one issue we continually see here at Sylo is inorganic follower growth and engagement acquisition on Instagram. Fake accounts are computer-based or bot accounts, which means no human is behind the likes and comments these accounts leave. 

Every Instagram account has some low level of fake accounts following them and engaging with their content. However, when an influencer purchases these followers, it pollutes the data, making it impossible to separate the real humans from the fake bots. Unfortunately, many brands view followers and engagement rate as the most crucial metrics, so there is a lot of motivation to inflate the numbers to show a big following that is highly engaged and significant growth. Furthermore, there isn’t much repercussion, and it’s not expensive to buy fake accounts. 

Brands and companies are paying influencers to get real humans to learn about their products and buy from them. So, if an influencer uses fake followers, then a brand or company will see zero return on investment! That’s why we’ve developed Sylo Certified, which can tell if an influencer has currently or in the past purchased followers! Of course, fake followers on your Instagram account really matter long term! Here are more reasons why:

Fake Followers Cloud True Reach

Reach is how many people see an Influencers post on Instagram. For example, if you post a photo and 100 people see it, then your reach for that post is 100. However, as a brand or company looking to partner with an influencer, you need to understand that follower count alone is not helpful in making influencer hiring decisions. It’s better to have 1000 real people who genuinely like, follow, and interact with an influencer’s account than having 10,000 people who aren’t in your target audience and will never engage or buy your product. Plus, a higher follower count doesn’t even necessarily mean more reach! 

Unfortunately, Instagram can’t always tell which accounts are fake, so they include these accounts in the number of people reached. If you’re looking to pay an influencer to market your products, then fake followers will cloud true reach. As an influencer, it’s also a bad idea to buy fake accounts because a brand will quickly realize they don’t see a return on investment, and it will hurt your reputation.  

Fake Followers Hurt Engagement Rates 

Did you know bot accounts can actually engage with content? Bots can like and comment on posts, just like real people. But unlike real people, bots will never purchase your product or service! If an influencer decides to buy fake followers, then authentic engagement rates go straight down. One way to tell if an engagement rate is false is to look for likes-to-follower or likes-to-comment ratios. If these ratios are too high, it can be a sign that an influencer is buying likes and comments, and the engagement rate is false. 

Fake Followers Spam Your Fans 

Not only do fake followers on your Instagram account hurt your reputation and make it impossible to secure high-paying brand deals, but they also ruin things for your real followers. Fake bot accounts can spam your real followers and even harm them! For example, data security company Imperva conducted a bot report, and found that 28.9% of bots can crack passwords or carry viruses! Yikes! 

Fake Followers Will Get Your Account Shut Down 

In 2018, Instagram started cracking down on fake followers. They began removing inauthentic likes, followers, and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity. If you’re caught using fake followers, Instagram can shadowban your account, which means the platform will partially block your content, so only users who follow you can see it. This will really hurt your real follower count and make it difficult to reach new people. 

You also run the risk of having your account banned entirely. If Instagram bans your account, they will permanently block your username, so you can’t recreate that account! Imagine spending time building a brand only to get that account shut down forever and never being able to use the name again? It’s not worth it! Plus, in the most severe cases, Instagram can even restrict your IP address from accessing Instagram all together.

Use Sylo to Vet Out Influencers with Inorganic Followers

Whether you’re an influencer looking to secure higher-paying deals or a brand who wants to make sure they partner with the most authentic influencer, Sylo is for you! Purchased activity on influencer accounts is well hidden and often takes place over short periods. Today’s tools are ineffective at protecting from the sophisticated forms of influencer fraud that are taking place. Sylo uses high-frequency, always-on data collection and advanced analytical methods to identify the multiple types of fraud in the market today. Sylo can detect bot activity that other solutions on the market can’t! So book your demo today and start using Sylo, the premier solution to maximize your ROI and reduce the risk of influencer fraud!

The Instagram Data Brand Marketers Are Missing – Monitor these 5 Metrics to Improve Influencer Selections

Did you know that according to a survey conducted by Facebook people said that they perceive brands on Instagram as popular (78%), creative (77%), entertaining (76%) and relevant (74%)? While many brands partner with influencers on Instagram, Sylo data has found that marketers are unable to effectively determine the quality of influencer audiences, and their ROI has suffered as a result. If you want your influencer marketing campaign to work, then you need verified data monitoring to set accurate KPIs and interpet Instagram data. With that in mind, here are 5 metrics you should be keeping track of to improve your influencer selection:

Follower Growth Rate

If you keep track of the follower growth rate, it’s easier to see which influencer is doing better than their competitors. For example, one influencer might have less followers because their account is newer, but when you track follower growth rate, you will see that they could be gaining traction much faster than their competition. 

The follower growth rate is calculated as the number of followers gained divided by the number of followers started with, times 100% (for a specific period).

The follower growth rate calculation is:

Follower Growth Rate = New Followers / Starting Follower Count x 100%

For instance, if influencer A has 1000 followers to start and gains 100 followers in a month, they’re follower growth rate is 10%.

Now let’s say influencer B has started with 10,000 followers and gains 100. They’ve only seen a follower growth rate of 1%.

Both influencers saw the same number of raw followers in a month. Although it looks like influencer B has more followers overall, it’s influencer A that is more successful when it comes to attracting new followers!

Some influencers use Giveaways to artificially inflate this metric, and will often subsequently delete the posts to hide the evidence. Fortunately, Sylo can see this type of activity because we retain all post data even if the influencer deletes them.

Instagram Impressions 

Impressions measure the number of times users saw your post or ad. This metric doesn’t take into account unique users, which means if your post or ad is shown 150 times to one person, it would technically count as 150 impressions. It’s best when both reach and impressions are high, but you want the number of impressions to be higher than your reach. Why? Because it’s a sign that your followers have viewed your content multiple times. When people see your post or ad more than once, they start to become familiar with your brand, so even if people aren’t in the market for what you’re selling right now, their awareness of your brand might lead them to purchase in the future.

However, it’s important to note that platforms often estimate impressions because they aren’t publicly available. To get the real number of impressions on Instagram, it requires authentication. In fact, Sylo highlights a case study on our website that cites how a platform over-reported impressions on a campaign by 631%! That goes to show that only independent, direct access to your verified campaign data guarantees that your brand receives what was paid for.

Story Engagement Rate 

How do you calculate story engagement rate? Good Question! Although there are no likes, comments, or saves on Instagram Stories, you can measure interactions such as swipe ups, replies, tap backs, and tap forwards to figure out the engagement rate.

Swipe ups are available to influencers with 10K followers or more. Once an influencer has unlocked the swipe up feature, they can add a link to your product or website so users can swipe up on the story and be taken to your landing page. Instagram Story analytics will track the number of times someone has swiped up on a story, which is key to understanding what content is best for driving traffic to your website. Approximately 15 to 25% of Instagram users will swipe up on a story.

Another great way to measure Instagram story engagement is by tracking how many users reply to your story. Instagram is about creating a community, so it’s essential to have conversations with your audience. That’s why influencer marketing is so successful because they encourage more people to tap the reply button and send a message! 

Also, how many people tapped backward is a good indication of story engagement. When people tap backward, it often means that your story was interesting, so they wanted to watch it again! If you see too many taps forward, it could mean that your story is boring, has too much text, or maybe you have too many stories posted. 

For a full breakdown, we love this guide from Social Media Examiner. 

Audience Composition

Instagram Insights will let you know about an influencer’s audience composition. That means you can track crucial stats about followers, such as age range, gender, and location. This is important because you don’t want to select an influencer who has 100,000 followers if none of those followers match your target audience. Once you have the data about an influencer’s audience composition, you can combine it with your buyer personas to help gain a clear picture of what your Instagram target audience should be. 

Reach  

When it comes to Instagram, your reach tells you how many unique viewers saw your story or post, while impressions let you know how many times each viewer saw your story or post. For example, if one person viewed your story three times, you would see a reach of one and an impression of three. Typically, the longer an influencer is on Instagram and the more followers they get, the more reach they gain. 

Besides total reach, you also want to monitor the reach rate. This is the percentage of followers that see your post, and it’s calculated by dividing the total reach of a post by the total number of followers. For instance, if you have 300 reach and 1000 followers, your reach rate is 30%. According to a study conducted by Sylo, close to 90 percent of influencers reach less than half of their audience; while more than 50

percent of influencers reach less than 25 percent of their audience. 

Sylo is Here to Help

Keeping track of vital data for your influencer marketing campaign doesn’t have to be hard. When you use Sylo, not only do you get Campaign Data Verification & Benchmarks, but you also get Vetting & Fraud Detection! Sylo provides access to the most accurate and comprehensive dataset in the industry, allowing you to optimize every step of your influencer programs and maximize ROI. With Sylo, you get authenticated data that delivers precise influencer audience and performance metrics and removes the guesswork from influencer partner selections and campaign measurement. So if you’re looking to reduce risk, avoid waste, and increase ROI, contact Sylo today!

Study: Instagram’s “New Posts” Affecting Creators?

On March 22, 2018, Instagram announced that they were introducing a New Posts button to make posts in the timeline more likely to appear chronologically – see the full details in Instagram’s announcement here: https://instagram-press.com/blog/2018/03/22/changes-to-improve-your-instagram-feed/

Following the announcement, SYLO immediately launched a research study to see how (if at all) this change would affect creators (i.e. influencers) on Instagram. As part of this study, SYLO analyzed 61 Instagram creator  accounts (which were authenticated in the SYLO platform) and these accounts 6,068 Instagram posts that were posted between January 1, 2018 and April 22, 2018, to see if their engagement and reach metrics could have been affected by the change.

As part of the research, SYLO analyzed the likes and comments that the creators received on each post within each of the first few hours after publishing the post to see if their engagement traction could have been affected by the change, since the change was meant to increase the number of posts that would appear chronologically.

SYLO analyzed the creators’ post metrics for 2018 leading up to the change (January 1, 2018 – March 21, 2018) and compared that to these same creators’ post metrics for the month following the change (March 22, 2018 – April 22, 2018).

Here are the three key findings from this research:

1. Creators received post engagements much more quickly
After the Instagram algorithm change, the average creator received a much larger percentage of their total engagements in the first hour after their posts were published than they had received before the algorithm change, with an increase of 19% for likes and 18% for comments. (Total engagements are the combined likes and comments collected for seven days after the post is published.)

2. Follower growth per day increased exponentially
From March 22, 2018 – April 22, 2018, the creators analyzed saw an average 520% increase in follower growth per day compared to January 1, 2018 – March 21, 2018. This average accounted for extreme outliers, so SYLO also calculated a trimmed average of 64% increase in follower growth per day, which accounts for the removal of these extreme outliers on both ends of the spectrum.

3. Posting increased by 23% month-over-month
Comparing the creators month-over-month, in the month after the change (March 22, 2018 – April 22, 2018), creators posted 23% more than they did in the month prior to the change (February 21, 2018 – March 21, 2018). SYLO analyzed the month prior to that (January 20, 2018 – February 20, 2018) to see if this was a trend, and found that during that time period, on average, creators posted 11% more than they did from February 21, 2018 – March 21, 2018. In other words, the creators analyzed were posting less in the month before the change than they were two months before the Instagram algorithm change, and that trend reversed in the month after the Instagram algorithm change.

If you would like to receive a verified performance analysis of your influencer marketing efforts, please contact SYLO at contact@meetsylo.com!

 

Image source: Unsplash