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A trusted, authentic influencer can be an incredibly valuable asset for a brand, not only in terms of revenue, but also in terms of market cred. But as being an influencer has become more lucrative, a darker side of partnership has emerged.  

Last year alone, Twitter had to suspend more than 70 million bots and fake accounts.

“Like-for-like” tactics like Instagram engagement pods, bot followers, follower factories, and other inauthentic marketing schemes have poisoned the influencer punchbowl to a degree, because everyone’s wary of paying for exposure to an influencer’s huge following if that following consists largely of bots or low-quality followers.

What’s a low-quality follower?

– One that provides a like-for-like transaction, then activity drops off quickly
– One that only comments to drive their own interests
– One that follows so many accounts they are unlikely to actually engage with you in a real way

Spotting fake followers and bots is a top concern for 42% of marketers, but there are certain steps you can take to increase real-deal engagement and spot quality influencers. 

Here are five steps we recommend

1. Look for an active following 

Is the level of engagement an influencer is getting proportionate to their following? If they have hundreds of thousands of followers, they should be getting a reasonable number of likes and comments.

2. Audit comments

A generic comment like “nice photo” is likely to be a bot, whereas a specific comment such as “your pink jacket looks amazing against that sunset” is much more likely to be from a real person (assuming the person in the photo is actually wearing a pink jacket and the sun is actually setting).

3. Watch for clickbaity activity 

Competitions that ask people to “like and follow to win” or offer “follow for follow” are underhanded tactics for boosting followings — influencers using these approaches are unlikely to have high-quality followers.

4. Diversify with smaller partners

Ensuring your partner mix includes micro- and nano-influencers can be a good way to improve quality. The reason is simple: influencers with less inflated followings are less likely to be artificially inflating them. What’s more, these smaller influencers offer good bang for the buck. For example, influencers with fewer than 10K followers have a 7.5X higher comment rate than those with 10M+ followers. And a 2019 influencer marketing report found that influencer partners with 50-250K followers delivered 30% better ROI than those with 250K-1M.

5. Pay only for value

Rather than simply paying to get in front of a large following that may or may not be legit, introduce payment terms that reward only demonstrably valuable engagement. Using influencer fraud risk scores also enables you to adjust payout terms to avoid wasting spend on partners with questionable audience quality.

For more tips on making sure you only partner with the good and avoid the rotten influencer apples, read our eBook, Your Influencer Program Is Broken, or reach out to a growth technologist now at sales@impact.com.

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