Considering influencer marketing in the digital media, there are several references of influencers nowadays, who fill the social networks and are present in campaigns by big brands. Following in the footsteps these broadcasters and micro-influencers may be too easy in the beginning. However, it’s necessary to be very careful, because there is the option nowadays for any individual to increase their numbers of followers, paying for fake followers, likes and comments. In this case, would it be useless to put an effort in the creation of content if you can artificially buy influence?
It could be, but reality is different. Becoming a creator or even a micro-influencer is very tough, especially if you follow the routine and effort behind a simple social network post. According to a study carried out in 2015 and published by Business Insider, 8% of Instagram accounts are fake and around 30% of those accounts are inactive. Website InfluencerDB also tackles the subject
“These accounts or bots are usually computer-based and randomly follow Instagram channels, post spam-type comments in a huge number of images.“
A research carried out by Trind Micro Inc., called “Fake News and Cyber Propaganda: The Use and Abuse of Social Media”, discusses, among other topics, what motivates people to promote likes and comments with the purchase of likes. In this research, it was found out that those campaigns are not always made by programmed bots. There are real people who use collective collaboration programs for a common purpose.
That directly reflects to advertisers. Having influencers with a large number of fake followers in their influencer marketing campaign may generate high risks, which several times results in not having the expect result in the campaign.
Why is the trend of buying followers growing in influencer marketing?
Mostly, due to the rampant power of social networks, and also, due to the popularity of blogs. Nowadays, it is possible for anyone with interest and determination, or skill in video and photo editing resources, to be a part of this market. A part of the main bloggers, vloggers and other digital influencers proves it’s possible to cause impact without being a TV star, a celebrity, or a magazine model.
An example of digital influencer who grew large was Zoella – one of the biggest YouTubers in the world – with over 1 billion views on herchannel on the plaftorm. That shows regular people have a reach that is equal or superior than a superstar used to have. Digital influencers are essentially content creators, researchers, advertisers and editors of their own magazines and TV channels.
The root of their charm is due to the fact that they work on their contents largely by themselves or with a single partnership. In the market, with aggressive demands and saturated publicity, consumers wish for a more authentic and trustworthy voice, who know how to transmit the message on a personal level and that, in the end, they may interact not only with the influencer, but also with the brand.
How are social networks followers bought?
The Market of Instagram influencers is nowadays estimated to be worth 1 billion dollars according to MediaKix data. And that number should double in 2019 with the investments in influencer marketing. For big and small influencers, the habit of buying fake followers or engagement will be more complicated. However, for micro-influencers, such action ends up becoming common and profitable. In a case conducted by MediaKix, two fictitious Instagram accounts were made, with the intention of generating likes and comments, hence attracting brand sponsorships.
The idea was to segment these two accounts in the most usual Instagram styles: fashion, style, and trips and adventures. Then, stages were created for the fake profile building with the purchase of followers.
- First stage:Content generation
By hiring a local model, the experiment created the channel content and used a photo session that lasted an entire day. The goal was to shape the character with a lifestyle similar to Santa Monica’s. The username was called “calibeachgirl310“.
The experiment continued with the creation of a second Instagram account. This time, the photos used to build this character were from free image banks. The profile was dedicated to the trips and adventures theme, with most part of the images taken from landscapes, with a focus in Paris, Yosemite, and Maui. For this account, the username employed was “wanderingggirl“. To make the experiment look more real, photos of blonde girls without showing her face were used, giving the impression of someone’s presence in the landscapes.
- Second stage:Purchase of followers
However, after such precaution, it was found out that you are allowed to purchase up to 15,000 followers at once. On average, the purchase of followers cost between US$3 to US$8 for every 1,000 followers, depending on how trustworthy the service is. Both accounts invested in the followers purchase and remained with about 30,000 and 50,000, respectively, over the course of two months.
- Third stage:Engagement purchase
After buying a few thousands of followers, it was necessary to purchase likes and comments in the fake accounts posts. On average, the investment for each comment was about US$0.12 and it generated around 10 to 50 comments split between the accounts. Regarding the likes purchase, the investment was around US$4 to US$9 for each 1,000 likes. This action took around 24 hours to be completed and generated around 500 to 2,500 likes. The engagement increased as the likes and comments purchase were added by the hired services.
After the success of the previous stages, the fake accounts were inserted in influencer marketing platforms, which resulted in the offer of four brands. Two for each fake account created. Their sponsors go from bathing suit companies to food and drink companies. The test has shown that companies are not careful when establishing a partnership with influencers. Instead of analyzing which metrics are more adequate to their type of business, vanity metrics (which are numbers in general) got more attention.
Tip: On influencer marketing, it’s not just numbers and followers on a determined social network that make the creator a good influencer. Most importantly, it’s essential to evaluate the engagement metrics, interest of their followers, as well as the influencer’s partnerships with other brands. With influency-me, you can analyze all the influencer’s numbers and know how their interaction with their audience works. Learn more
It’s not just the influencer marketing industry that is alert to the purchase of followers
The increase of interest from micro and small influencers to be a part of such market made the temptation to secure more followers, likes and engagement in their social networks to grow. For that reason, there are several companies that contribute to the sale of followers.
One of the great influencers in digital era, Casey Neistat, who has a little over 7.7 million subscribers and more than 1.8 billion views on his YouTube channel, made a video where he tells – in the most casual way – how easy it is to hire and grow your followers network. He also mentions a case in Thailand, where local police arrested a group that owned an illegal “like farm”. On the same video, he presents the website Buzzoid, which sells that type of service in the United States of America:
Case of the “influence machine”
In Russia, technology advanced fast. As discussions in social networks increased and the impact they caused grew, a company called “Snatap”, which is part of the holding company “Like”, decided to innovate and created a machine that sells Instagram likes and new followers. The company is owned by two partners – Nazir Yusifov and Ayaz Shabutdinov.
For only US$0.89, you get 100 likes on a new photo. For those who can invest a little more, there is the option of forking out amazing US$850 to buy 150,000 followers – with a free guaranteed up to 1,500 actions per post, be it likes, shares or comments..
Nowadays, there are around 20 automatic sales machines all over Russia – with an investment of US$3,493 for the processor production which will generate the likes and followers plus an investment of the installation in a shopping center, with the final cost around US$7,372, according to Dazzed Digital – the company already has around 20 to 50 client requests a day, according to Yusifov. The owner also confirmed that the company is now preparing similar machines to install in Germany, Poland and the USA, although the equipment is in the process of certification in other countries.
What should brands do?
“There are differences between having a platform and having a real team managing and making sure the data is correct”.
That shows the significance of this social network universe. Being a part of influencer marketing without correct metrics for each strategy would indicate nothing but numbers without quality. Regarding Instagram, more channels and exclusion policies will be created to avoid and end fake accounts. As the influencers market grows, the trend is to reduce the amount of user accounts that sue such resources to keep themselves with satisfactory number of followers for their vanity metrics. This, however, will not limit the sales of followers, because even with the imposed terms, that market is still growing.
Based on these factors, profound analysis become vital. Otherwise, the sum of money invested on a determined influencer without correct analysis could convert in just bots that will never become customers.
The positive return for both sides is based on transparency of the influencer’s metrics. Companies then must seek to identify influencers with good content and real followers, who show interest in a real trustworthy partnership. That way, the good relationship between the brand and influencer will make the audience of that creator to become customers.
On November 8, Comunique-se made a Podcast about the subject. To listen to it, just click the player below.