Detect And Combat Influencer Fraud


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Follower Count: There's More Than Meets The Eye

A lot of brands choose to work with influencers based on how many followers they have, a metric that isn't always a true reflection of the influencer's reach. Oftentimes, influencers followers aren't engaged with their account or they might not even be real people.  And it is important for brands to take a wider look at influencer's Instagram accounts to get a better understanding of their follower's authenticity, and to determine if their audience demographics will help make their campaign successful.

Our CEO Stacy Jones sat down with a software analytic source for influencer marketing to discuss how brands can better protect themselves and ensure success.  In this blog post, Hollywood Branded takes a look into how you can detect and combat influencer fraud, with valuable insights from HypeAuditor's Yaro Pat.

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A Little More About Yaro

Yaro is a project manager at HypeAuditor, a third party analytic source for Instagram. HypeAuditor was developed to help marketers find a more efficient way to source authentic influencers for their marketing campaigns.

He is a jack of all trades in design, development, analytics and marketing. For the last two years, Yaro has been concentrating on the influencer marketing industry and social media analytics. His goal to help make the whole industry of influencer marketing more transparent and effective.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: To start off, can you give us a little bit of a background on who you are and what got you into doing social influencer marketing software?

Answer: I started a web designer a long time ago, and then I switched to a user experience designer role at a huge development company. When I moved to a different city, I joined a great team of designers to be a project manager. In that role I learned that I actually I don't like to be a project manager - managing tasks that come from different people, or come from clients. 

I always wanted my own product where I am responsible for everything and where I can use numbers to grow and understand what to do next, rather than doing it by guessing. And that's exactly what I did. I joined the company that I work for right now as a product manager, rather than the project manager. I grow the product, but first, I'm responsible for understanding the customer needs. I talk to customers a lot; if you've ever used our product you might have already talked to me.

A lot of my work is working with our customers, who are mostly brands that use Instagram influencer marketing, and also platforms and agencies. We also do a lot of work to make the whole industry of influencer marketing transparent, fair and effective. That's our main goal at the moment.

Question: Can you explain how you define the levels of influencers? We have the nano, we have the micro, we have the macro, we have a celebrity, can you put some numbers behind that? Or how you all evaluate that?

Answer: Yeah, the main thing here is that its not only the number of followers that we choose to divide in terms of simple segments. Different influencers behave in a different way, and different products should be advertised with influencers of varying sizes. 

Let's take celebrities for example. When you follow David Beckham you don't feel connected to him at all, you don't understand his everyday problems, your problems are completely different. But you like him in general because he's a great person, the things he does for society are great, but you don't have the same problems and you don't lead the same life.

Celebrity invite to brand event ebookWith small influencers, you feel very strongly connected with them, and that's how the whole influencer marketing magic happens. You feel the advertisement from them like a piece of advice from a friend and that's what makes them special.

Medium size influencers are also great because they already have certain influence, on their own. So they already have some influence from their audience, but at the same time they are still down to earth, they are not like celebrities.

Question: They pretty much know what to do better, potentially better than the nano and micro influencers. Medium size influencers have honed their skill, their content might be a little bit more refined, and they might understand how to grow their audience a little bit more. They're relatable to the follower, but not necessarily as relatable as your smaller influencers. Right?

Answer: Exactly, yeah. 100%. Their content is still authentic but it's very high quality. They use a special studio and have a special way of shooting, they know how to build a description on every post. They will never miss the opportunity to activate the audience using certain words, CTAs (Call To Actions), and tricks with Instagram stories. Bigger influencers know how to do it the proper way. Smaller influencers are more relatable, that's the key difference.


Question: We get this a lot when we're talking with brands and individuals in general, how to robots work, do you know? Do you have any insight? 

Answer: Well, there are different ways to inflate your numbers on Instagram. One way is by purchasing followers, and also purchasing ones who comment on your posts. And the price is strikingly low, so it's like $10 for thousand of followers. You'll get followers that will stay with you for like one month or so, and during that period in time you will be able to trick your advertisers.

But then a lot of interesting things start to happen. First of all, since your purchased followers are massive, they drop your engagement rate. The Instagram algorithm sees that your audience doesn't react to your content and starts to show your content less, now you have to purchase likes and comments, and you're hooked.

The techniques have grown more sophisticated too. Around 10% of influencers participate in engagement pods, a special way of inflating comments that's very hard to spot. It's where influencers get together in small groups using Instagram direct messages, Facebook or WhatsApp. Every time someone makes a post they just send a link to the post to that group asking people to post at least four words in their comments to ask about a specific thing, to praise it and all that. 


I always avoid saying that the inluencers are behaving in a wrong way, there's no wrong or right way. Most just don't understand what actually happens and what the outcome is of hiring Instagram growth managers and those guys start purchasing followers and likes. After their work, your Instagram account might feel very inauthentic, have very dormant audience, and the whole impact will be negative.

That's why we always stand for staying real and being authentic, and posting interesting content that's based in different offline events. These things create an authentic and engaged audience.

Question: All of this is bad for brands, because everything is based on how many followers someone has - and of course the content they are creating. It makes sense that engagement is a big factor for you all. Is there an average engagement rate that you're looking for? And what do you provide for your customers?

Answer: Yeah, and it's different for influencers of different sizes, micro influencers should have significantly higher engagement rates. We have one huge metric that combines the whole record in one number, Audience Quality Score, and it's shown at the top of every record. It's color coded: green for great audience quality, yellow for average, and red if something seems not very authentic. The Audience Quality Score is dealing with the quality of Instagram accounts who subscribe to the influencer, reflecting how authentic those accounts are.

The Audience Quality Score tells a lot, but we always recommend drilling down and seeing the whole report, to see the audience type, to see engagement and how authentic it is. We have nice analytics that analyzes the curve of followers number for any anomalies. We can distinguish between bot and organic followers. We also look at followings graph and when you see saw pattern like huge jumps in follows/ unfollows, it typically means those followers were inauthentic. Meaning they will be not interested in the influencers content.

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That's what we do and its very special for influencers, brands, and agencies. As long as the Instagram account that has more than 1,000 followers, we can analyze it. We also have ABI solutions for platforms. Since we care about making the impact on the whole market, we understand that we can give our data to different platforms, and they will use it to qualify influencers to enrich their internal report.

That's how can help out the brands. We do this whole thing to make the market better, so that's our core values. Every time we plan a new feature we never talk about making money, we always talk about changing the market.So that's what we borrowed from famous Steve Jobs phrase, that you don't have to make a business that makes money, you have to make business that changes the world and money will come with it. So, that's what we do, that's our core principle.

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