How brands are combating inflated numbers by social media influencers

 Storyboard18 spoke to various stakeholders to understand how brands are addressing the challenge of overstated figures among social media influencers.

By  Saumya TewariAug 10, 2023 9:46 AM
How brands are combating inflated numbers by social media influencers
Data provided by KlugKlug, a global decision-making B2B tech SaaS platform for influencer marketing, says that out of 8 million influencers profile on Instagram it reviewed, around 4.6 million influencer has more than 60 percent fake (inactive or suspicious) followers, rendering these profiles useless as they don’t provide engagement to the brand.

Influencer marketing has become a cornerstone of brand promotion and consumer engagement. Social media influencers, with their massive followings and persuasive appeal, have the power to sway consumer choices and influence brand perception. However, the rise of dishonest practices such as buying fake followers and inflating social media metrics has cast a shadow over the segment.

Storyboard18 spoke to various stakeholders to understand how brands are addressing the challenge of exaggerated figures among social media influencers.

Data provided by KlugKlug, a global decision-making B2B tech SaaS platform for influencer marketing, says that out of 8 million influencers profile on Instagram it reviewed, around 4.6 million influencer has more than 60 percent fake (inactive or suspicious) followers, rendering these profiles useless as they don’t provide engagement to the brand.

Vaibhav Gupta, co-founder and chief product officer, KlugKlug, explains that influencer marketing is largely driven by the quantum of followers, on the basis of which their endorsement fee is decided. However, this system is broken.

“The question is of relevant audiences. For example, more than 93 percent of all female profiles on Instagram have more than 50 percent male audiences. So the point is all beauty brands are putting all their money on the wrong influencers while there are actually few good female influencers who have a majority female audience that need to be discovered,” he says.

To shed light on the impact of inflated numbers on the industry, Viraj Sheth, CEO and co-founder of Monk Entertainment that handles various influencers and content creators, explains that when a significant segment of influencers relies on fake followers and inflated yardsticks, it erodes trust among brands and agencies.

“The essential metrics in influencer marketing, such as engagement and followers, are compromised, leading brands to question the authenticity and effectiveness of their partnerships. While the entire industry is not guilty of employing such malpractices, the presence of such influencers creates a trust deficit that affects marketing decisions,” he adds.

Creators Speak

Robin Kurian aka Romolika, a digital content creator with over 1 lakh Instagram followers, expresses the concern of genuine content creators who feel undervalued when they witness unauthentic influencers being rewarded for dishonest tactics.

“Authentic creators invest substantial time, effort and passion into nurturing their audiences and establishing meaningful connections. Witnessing others gain rewards through unethical means creates a sense of unfairness and disillusionment in the industry,” he says.

However, Kurian emphasises that not all influencers engage in dishonest practices, and many brands and marketers are now adept at identifying genuine influencers with engaged and authentic audiences.

Himani Chowdhary, a finfluencer or financial influencer with close to 7 lakh followers on Instagram, sheds light on the dynamic between creators and brands. She believes that creators do not necessarily feel cheated by unauthentic influencers earning more due to inflated numbers.

“They believe that influencers with fake followers cannot generate sufficient awareness or leads for brands in the long run. In contrast, brands may feel more cheated by the presence of such influencers, as they disrupt the influencer marketing ecosystem,” she adds. However, Chowdhary does acknowledge that some brands may initially fall for inflated numbers without conducting proper research on the authenticity of the influencer's following.

Brands being cautious

To safeguard their marketing investments and maintain the integrity of influencer marketing, brands are adopting stringent measures to identify authentic influencers. Shubhranshu Singh, vice president of marketing at Tata Motors, outlines their approach, which includes rigorous hygiene checks conducted by partner agencies.

“These checks analyse crucial metrics such as engagement rate, follower authenticity and audience demographics. The agency uses advanced tools to scrutinise comments and audience quality, grading influencers based on their credibility. Tata Motors ensures that only genuine influencers, capable of providing real value to their audiences, become brand partners,” he notes.

Shantanu Deshpande, founder and CEO of D2C personal care firm Bombay Shaving Company, observes that the rapidly evolving world of influencer marketing presents a dichotomy. On the one hand, content creators with genuine influence, such as the Paul brothers (American content creators Jake and Logan Paul) and Mr Beast (American YouTuber), have the ability to captivate audiences and create powerful narratives that resonate with consumers. These content creators become brand ambassadors, effectively building brands and creating lasting impressions.

“However, brands face challenges when they adopt a lazy marketing approach, merely chasing influencers with impressive follower counts without considering authentic engagement. This one-size-fits-all strategy is destined to fail, as consumers are savvy enough to differentiate between genuine recommendations and inauthentic endorsements,” he notes.

Suramya Jain, CMO and co-founder, RAS Luxury Oils India says that if brands look at influencer marketing as a reach based tool that's when they chase metrics like follower count and average views of influencers they use. She emphasises that her brand's approach is to work with selective influencers that have a female focussed following.

"At our level, we also scan the number and quality of comments that our influencers are getting and the engagement rate they have. Since we stay from doing mass campaigns on Instagram we only work with a select few influencers that have relevance and deeper engagement," she adds.

In conclusion, the challenge of the use of inflated numbers by social media influencers demands vigilance and ethical practices from brands and content creators respectively. As brands increasingly prioritise authentic engagement over sheer follower counts, the industry is bound to witness a shift towards more meaningful and impactful influencer partnerships.

By staying true to their values and carefully selecting influencers with genuine influence, brands can foster enduring relationships with their target audience and build a sustainable ecosystem for influencer marketing. Also read: ASCI broadens the definition of celebrities in its code, to include social media influencers with high following

First Published on Aug 10, 2023 9:05 AM

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