Influencers are a powerful marketing tool. According to stats from BigCommerce.com, 17% of companies are spending over HALF of their marketing budget on influencers. 89% say that the ROI they get from influencer marketing campaigns compares to or outshines their other marketing channels.
The annual Influencer Marketing Report 2022 published by influencermarketinghub.com has revealed that the influencer marketing industry will grow to around $16.4 billion in revenue in 2022. Of the companies surveyed, more than 75% plan to allocate a budget for influencer marketing in 2022. The total social commerce revenue in 2022 is estimated to be $958 billion. Perhaps the most interesting statistic, however, is provided by infuencermarketinghub.com’s 2019 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, which found that every dollar invested by companies in influencer marketing generated up to $18 in advertising value.
So, the numbers show: Influencer marketing is worthwhile because it is a very effective means of acquiring and retaining customers. To get the most out of this opportunity, however, you need to know how to recognize influencers who truly reach their community and how to distinguish them from those who are just faking their influence.
Unfortunately, the possibility of simply buying followers and engagement has led to influencers artificially boosting their follower numbers in order to be able to charge more money for brand collaborations.
The question is, how can you tell which influencers have built their audience organically and which ones are using paid fake followers to inflate their online presence? There are a number of factors you can look at to determine whether or not an influencer has a genuinely interested and engaged audience.
In this blog article, we’ll explore what true engagement means, what it looks like, and how you can tell which influencers have the most engaged community.
Why Is Engagement Important?
Follower count is the easiest influencer metric to determine – but not necessarily the most important or meaningful. There are countless bots and questionable services that allow shady influencers to gain hundreds or even thousands of followers in a very short time. Thus, it is very important to find out if an influencer has genuine engagement. Why? Because it’s an indication that their audience is actually made up of people who are interested in their content.
So, how can you spot genuine engagement? Here are a few things to look out for:
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A dramatic increase in followers within a very short period of time is often a sign that these followers have been bought, not earned. So if an influencer who had 500 followers last week suddenly has 5,000 followers, that’s definitely a warning sign. However, it can be difficult to spot this sudden increase in followers if you don’t keep track of the numbers. With influData, you can see the evolution of influencer audiences over time, making it easy to spot conspicuous peaks.
Another way to tell if followers have been bought is to look at the “follower-to-following” ratio. If the number of followers is similar to the number of accounts the influencer follows, they may have been purchased. The influencer has thus bought their followers through their own followings. Of course, this usually only applies to Micro or Mega Influencers and not Nano Influencers. Many Instagram users follow a thousand or more people. So if you see a Nano Influencer with 2,000 followers and they follow almost 2,000 accounts, that’s not necessarily a red flag.
What if an influencer pays for likes and engagement on a particular post? How can you tell what is real and what is not? On Instagram, only a small portion of an influencer’s audience sees or likes each photo. This percentage is usually 1-5%. When you see a post that has almost as many likes as the influencer has followers, though, that’s suspicious. This is a sign that the likes and engagement for that particular post may have been purchased. Paid comments are often superficial and very generic. If a post has a lot of comments that are simply “Very cool!” or say “Great picture” (or even just an emoji), it’s a sign that these comments are not from real people.
Looking at how much engagement an influencer gets, it can be a bad sign if every single post has the same number of likes and comments. If an account has genuine engagement, some posts will naturally get more comments and likes than others. For example, bright selfies or photos with dogs or babies usually get more attention. Instagram’s algorithm favors high-quality, bright images and pushes them higher up in the timeline. Low-quality, dark images or images that only show products will naturally get less engagement this way.
So when you look at multiple posts from the same influencer, there should be a natural fluctuation in comments and likes. High-quality posts should have more engagement than lower-quality ones. If all posts have a similar number of likes and comments, it’s an indication that the influencer is paying for engagement.
It’s also important to look closely at what type of followers the influencer has. The influencer’s followers should reflect their niche. If a large portion of their engagement comes from outside their niche, it’s likely they’re paying for engagement or using a bot. If the influencer’s followers don’t fit the specific niche, they probably aren’t likely to become customers for the product you’re promoting. In this case, it’s definitely better to partner with a smaller influencer whose audience is a perfect match for the product, rather than an influencer with a larger but less specific following.
There are auditing tools that evaluate and analyze social media accounts and can detect when the numbers don’t add up.
With a tool like influData, you can evaluate all this information and find an influencer with real followers and real engagement. influData offers you, among other things, a general quality rating that uses several complex algorithms to assess the quality of the influencer and their followers.
An influencer with a genuine, engaged audience regularly has an overall score of at least 8 (out of a maximum of 10). This score is calculated based on individual mini-scores that compare the influencer to all other influencers of a similar size in the areas of posts like engagement, reel engagement, follower growth, and more. Influencers who pay to artificially boost their follower numbers may be fooling some companies, but their approach is very short-sighted.
Those who build an authentic, organic fan base of real users who watch, like, and interact with their content will always come out on top in the end! So watch out for signs of fake engagement and be on the lookout for authentic influencers.