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Consumers today expect trustworthy brand relationships through influencers and celebrity endorsements, but trends show that brands are shifting away from expensive celebrity endorsements and moving towards influencer marketing to promote products or services.

Core reasons for influencer endorsement rise are (a) Consumers purchase products supported by influencers (b) Consumers trust online opinions (reviews and comments) (c) Consumers spend time on social media digesting peer written content (d) Consumers consult influencers for new trends and ideas.

It is also based on the trust and respect the consumer has built with influencers who interact with their followers, responding to comments and giving an opinion on products and services. The reason for influencer success is that they provide insight into their personal lives and interact with followers constantly.

However, all that glitters is not gold, and the followers and engagements that you see for a majority of social media influencers may not be original (either bots or fake). You can buy followers for cheap and it is also difficult to differentiate between paid posts and personal opinions because of a lack of user awareness.

New trends:

Many fake companies (mobile betting, online gaming, online investment, online multi-level marketing, and cryptocurrency) operate anonymously with help of social media influencers and launch costly marketing campaigns to entice the average middle class to invest time and money in their applications.

Most of these applications are not legitimate as they are not downloaded from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Companies making real money are virtually undiscoverable to the people, police and judiciary. It’s time for India to have proper statutory and compliance in place so that social media influencers do not take people for a ride.

Identifying fake influencers:

As per a survey done by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, up to 50 per cent of followers are fake. Many top Bollywood actors and actresses and rappers also came under the radar. We have listed a few tips to identify fake and real influencers:

1. Look at follower trends: a majority of followers are obtained through the use of bots or are purchased.

2. Frequency of posting: Examples like inactive accounts with a large number of followers and fewer postings should raise red flags as genuine accounts have consistent growth.

3. Followers to engagement ratio: There is always a poor engagement rate considering followers. A few fake influencers have high engagement, but the catch is almost all engagements are identical, i.e., the same set of comments and the same set of followers.

4. Use influencer monitoring tools: It’s recommended that you use a tool that is AI-driven to identify and eliminate fraudulent interactions by monitoring click-through rates, affiliate links, coupon codes and bio descriptions, etc.

5. Fake Verified Account: Sometimes even the blue mark is part of the name. Do a fact check.

What influencers should do: –

1. Promoting Products/Services – Don’t get carried away by the money offered by fake products/services/applications. Here are some tips
(a) Pause – Have a pause and remember that anything that is “Too good to be true” will mostly be false. (b) Ask – Ask Google/Ask the source of legitimate information. (c) Read/Review – Read the Fact-Checks or research relevant information and confirm. (d) Inform – Inform people what is fact and not fiction.

2. Stalking – (a) Do not publish your phone number or address on your social media as it could be harvested and processed for commercial use. (b) Check access privileges given to apps (c) Search through connected apps and followers and delete unwanted ones.

3. Privacy – Use all required privacy settings. (a) Set your GPS, and Bluetooth, and set passwords and PINs on your phone. (b) Download only from trusted providers (c) Consent should be treated the same way for all offline and online interactions

4. Photo/Video – (a) To keep your personal life safe, it is important to ensure no personal stories, no expression of opinion etc as you could be trolled. (b) Use watermarks on all your posts.

5. Set Boundaries – You should be mindful of your privacy and others. (a) Never indulge in personal stories that could embarrass you in future (b) Do not post something that could hurt someone’s feelings. (c) Avoid racist, political and religious comments.

6. Protect Your Data – (a) Use paid tools that block malware and trackers. (b) Use 2FA to protect passwords, email and payments.

7. Never buy fake reviews, comments and likes to impress followers



Author: Howard Caldwell