Influencer Fraud: Spot a Fraud Before It Costs You

“Influencer” was the buzzword of 2019. Everyone either was an influencer, purchased a product endorsed by an influencer, or dedicated ad spend towards influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has become a key part of many consumer brands’ promotional strategies as it is considered more authentic to digital audiences, especially among Millennial and Gen Z demographics, than traditional advertising. According to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer, 63% of consumers trust influencers more than brands’ own advertising. However, it is conservatively estimated that influencer fraud costs brands $1.3 billion a year. 

What exactly is an influencer and when does influencer marketing have the potential to waste a brand’s money? According to Mediakix, an influencer is broadly defined as “social media personalities with loyal audiences that they earned by sharing content that inspires, entertains, informs, and connects them with their followers.” This broad definition includes several tiers like “nano” and “macro,” based on engagement and reach, which ultimately determines the influencer’s popularity and income. Investing in influencer marketing is tricky to navigate without the guidance of social media experts because influencers can create fake accounts, buy fake followers, and count followers who no longer engage. Most influencers don’t have access to 90% of their audiences, meaning, of course, that most followers will never see the content brands paid to promote. To break down the dollars into sense, a mega-influencer with millions of followers could earn $250,000 per post and about $37,000 of that money would be lost to fraud. 

So how do you protect your brand against influencer fraud? Red flags include recently created accounts with many followers but little engagement. Look for obvious discrepancies between how many followers an influencer has and the engagement on their page. Creating the illusion of followers is easy to do, but faking engagement is difficult. If you see 1 million followers on Instagram but posts have a minuscule 80 likes, be suspicious. Mittcom utilizes an “influencer rubric” to determine the costs and benefits of our clients’ potential influencer partnerships in addition to vetting for authenticity.

If you need help vetting influencers or managing your brand in a complex digital landscape, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 781-247-0730 or send an email to

Source: CBS News