Biz Tips: Is Influencer Marketing Fraud a Thing?

Biz Tips: Is Influencer Marketing Fraud a Thing?


Is Influencer Marketing Fraud a Thing?

Marketing Week

Building the next generation of word-of-mouth on the decentralized web is hard, and it makes you realize how the current reality of content isn’t just inauthentic, it’s becoming a bit “black hat”.

While we know personal brands and what we term ‘user-generated-content’ (UGC) in the industry is more trustworthy, some of the ecosystems that govern how influencer marketing scales have gone astray. Would be influencers are supposed to be more credible, because they are authentic and people just like you and me. But what happens when that’s only half of the story?

Facebook and Twitter can attempt to clean up their bot problem, their fake account problem, but what if micro-influencers themselves are able to fool brands? Influencers promise brands highly niche referral traffic to their audiences, and companies easily shell out thousands of dollars per influencers to do this. Let’s just say influencer marketing has entered its adolescent period.

How to Create a More Ethical Internet?

Just as a civilization we are questioning the integrity of the internet and these channels, there’s gaining evidence influencer fraud is on the rise. This sound to me like another reason we need blockchain solutions and dApps that can penalize these sorts of interactions more clearly in a more transparent way.

Social Chain recently published a post on LinkedIn that got my attention. In an era when mobile advertising monopolies have allowed privacy invasions and data harvesting ubiquity, maybe we should be thinking about the future of influencer marketing more seriously.

Influencer fraud has conned our industry out of millions, making it the biggest scam in the history of marketing. Amid calls for urgent action, we launched an industry-first fraud detection tool. What we discovered will worry brands and marketers everywhere. (Social Chain)

When humans are gaming algorithms, doesn’t this really create a reality where influencers are encouraged to be unethical? It’s not clear if as communities we’re able to regulate algorithms as they currently proliferate on social platforms. Thus as influencer marketing grows on channels, dishonesty and fraud are too. For the majority of brands, that’s an Instagram problem.

When Being Authentic Is Not Real

  • It’s generally agreed, up to 20% of mid-level influencers’ followers are likely fraudulent, according to a Points North Group study.
  • When follower counts is what counts, bots and buying followers becomes tempting for social media influencers.
  • Brands on a regular basis approach under-age influencers without permission.
  • Targeted advertising has created an attention economy that can be hacked, where ‘authenticity’ itself can be manufactured.

So while perception can be manipulated, the industry of fake authenticity and humans gaming algos means we are entering another era of influencer marketing where even YT channels and IG personal brands, might not even correspond to real people.

Influencer Marketing Fraud is a Thing After All

Buying likes is the same as having bots, as fake engagement is becoming a more serious problem for the future of influencer marketing.

When influencers create ‘pods’, they also augment their influence via likes from other personal brands that already have followers of their own. Influencer marketing will easily surpass $10 Billion by 2020, where micro-influencers will increasingly be the face of peer-to-peer influence. With such a lucrative attention economy, we need tech that augments transparency.

Influencer fraud is likely so common that marketing budgets everywhere are being impacted by it. This Summer, Unilever CMO Keith Weed made a public call for change, announcing that the consumer packaged goods giant will no longer work with influencers who buy followers — so just as cybersecurity is becoming an intimate part of our future, so will anti-fraud online be in general.

Beyond a Fraud Police is a Blockchain Ecosystem

So accordingly, the trend we are seeing is that the influencer marketing software companies are increasingly emphasizing their abilities to detect fraudulent behavior, with some vendors redesigning their systems to that end. But what if that’s not the answer? What if influencer marketing fraud runs deeper than just software and algos.

At the WOM Protocol, we are busy behind the scenes not only watching the trends in our industry but building accountability and the right mechanisms where blockchain technology & digital asset incentives could be part of the answer to this behavior and gaming of the algorithms.

Distributed ledger technology will create a more trustworthy layer of the internet, and we believe social media will never be the same again. Rewarding honest word-of-mouth recommendations is part of the answer.

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Is Influencer Marketing Fraud a Thing? was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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