Influencer Marketing – How influencer marketing is battling the growing menace of Bots, Marketing & Advertising News, ET BrandEquity
What started as an experiment which saw people creating engaging content on social media platforms to drive conversations, now turned into a serious profession. Called them vloggers or bloggers, influencer marketing is the flavour of the season and from A-list celebrities to a regular user even a brand, everyone is trying to cash in on the trend.
According to industry estimates influencer marketing is expected to reach the $6.5 billion, mark by the end of this year. The market was pegged at $4.6 billion in 2018.
A recent report from the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) revealed that several celebrities, who also happen to be big influencers have a large number of fake followers on platforms such as Instagram. For instance, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres’s 58% followers are fake, said the study, followed by Kourtney Kardashian at 49%, Kim Kardashian (44%), Khloe Kardashian (44%), among others.
Similarly, at home cricketers such as Virat Kohli, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Nick Jonas, have been accused of fake followers. Interestingly, these celebrities are some of the most expensive ones too. For instance, Priyanka Chopra Jonas charges $271,000 per post, while the per post on Kohli’s page costs about $196,000.
However, there is also a negative impact which includes issues such as ‘Fake followers’ otherwise known as Bots. From time to time, the industry has pointed out at the fact there are some influencers who have bought followers or have invested in Bots. In fact, this is now a global issue.
Why should brands invest
Actor Priyanka Chopra, who currently has over 44.1 million followers on Instagram, according to the report, have 46% fake followers. This leaves her with just 24 million actual followers. Being one of the most expensive influencers she ideally charges a full amount for a single post. However, if one is to look at the actual number of real followers, she should charge advertisers based on real followers.
According to Govind Mahadevan, founder and CEO, Look Who’s Talking, this has always been an area of concern. “If we go back in time, Instagram was all about playing a number game. The criteria for selecting an influencer was based on the number of followers. But this is changing now as brands have realised the value of authenticity, be it in terms of content or the people who follow these influencers,” he added.
One of the reasons cited behind brands paying a hefty price is that there isn’t enough room to negotiate the cost with celebrities, as it is pre-fixed. The way to tackle the situation is that brands along with their agencies should screen the data before investing in a celebrity. “The process can only be implemented if brands are strict or work with influencers on the basis of cost per engagement (CPE),” Mahadevan added.
Moreover, advertising agencies or celebrity management organizations, which earlier would ink such deals have been replaced by influencer marketing agencies. These agencies have analytic tools which allow them to assess the true influence, thereby finalising one.
For Pranay Swarup, co-founder and CEO, Chtrbox, 5% followers of most of the influencers are usually Bots. This should be considered while devising a marketing plan. “In some instances, influencers have upto 20%-30% of fake followers,” he said.
The increasing Menace of Bots
Buying followers for Instagram is not a difficult task. In fact, as per several reports, this has turned into a global menace because influencers on several occasions have been involved in creating fake trends with the help of these bots, hence shaping a pre-conceived or a biased public opinion.
Influencer fraud, including the purchase of fake followers and creating fake personas, is expected to cost businesses $1.3 billion this year, according to new research from cybersecurity firm Cheq.
“We verify the influencer’s follower history and country of origin, as well as the comments on their posts, since these are clear indicators of bots. Through this process we give a unique rating to each influencer based on their follower base and make suggestions to our client accordingly,” Rahul Shenoy, senior brand services director, digital, FCB Interface, said.
Though there have been crackdowns on companies providing fake followers at cheap rates, more action should be taken by the platforms to stop this activity. Some experts pointed out that the responsibility to weed out fake following or attribution lies most with social media such as Instagram and Twitter. These platforms, over the years, have taken considerable steps to weed out bots following.