For social media influencers, follower counts are kind of like bank accounts — the higher the number, the more you’re worth. But fake followers are easy to amass and hard to identify, and according to WWD, those Potemkin audiences could be a real threat to the multimillion-dollar influencer economy.
Because the “foundational economics of the entire [influencer] industry are based on followers and engagement,” the story says (and because both of those things are as easy to purchase as just about anything else online), the incentive to buy fake followers — usually in the form of bots — is high. But bots don’t purchase things, and the companies that pay influencers are finally catching on.
While “fashion, beauty and retail” still invest a ton of money into influencer campaigns, the story noted that “the closer the industry looks at influencers and their followers, the more it doesn’t look like what it seems: in many cases, inflated follower counts that… yield little return on investment.”
But follower counts aren’t the only metric available to companies these days and, thankfully, data is both catching up to the hucksters of the influencer world and amplifying the value of the honest ones.
And it’s not just data that’s beating back the fakes, either: because social media has spawned as many cottage industry businesses as it has “models” and “photographers”, there are now agencies, apps and programs dedicated to weeding out inorganic audiences, some even “fusing artificial intelligence with human-powered efforts,” (fighting bots with bots).
The system isn’t perfect, the story notes, but it might provide a way forward for an industry with a rapidly liquifying foundation.
Read more at WWD.