Can You Spot Fake Influencers?

Posted on December 21, 2018

My early teen years were terrible. On top of a changing body and general angst, I had recently made a pretty massive move to a new school. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with finding the niche in which I was the most successful. I wasn’t naturally outgoing, and teenage insecurity really made sure that social interactions weren’t going to go well. However, when I got a few laughs doing an impression from a movie one day, I decided that I would immediately begin my transition from wallflower to funny man. How do you do that when it’s not natural? It’s simple. Fake it till you make it. Apparently I was not the founder of that type of thinking, and was not the last to hold that mindset. With the rise of influencer marketing, some have taken “fake it till you make it” to the extreme.

You’ve almost certainly seen sponsored posts in which influencers plug a product that they’ve been paid to advertise. What if I told you that they weren’t paid to advertise? A new trend among users on instagram is to “fake it till they make it” by posting fake endorsed posts. Users will post content with a product, tag the company who makes the product, and pretend that they got paid for the post. This is apparently a search for legitimacy, as users hope to generate enough buzz to actually become paid influencers, generating clout with friends and the digital world at large. This is all made possible due to the rising popularity of influencer marketing. As we’ve discussed before, influencers are making a big splash in the commercial world. This is best illustrated in a quote from an article from The Atlantic on the topic of fake influencers: “A decade ago, shilling products to your fans may have been seen as selling out. Now it’s a sign of success.” It’s cool to get your money. It’s impressive to have that clout. And it’s a marketing trend you cannot afford to ignore.

Now, perhaps you’re thinking, “It’s just people posing as influencers– who cares?” You should care, especially if you’re a company who utilizes influencers for marketing. You absolutely should use influencers for marketing, but be wary. Some “influencers” may not have the influence you’re hoping they do. Social sites are better about monitoring bots, but it’s still easy to buy followers. Check out how real the engagement your prospective influencer maintains. You should also be wary of fake influencers marketing your products poorly without your consent. Tagged products are nice, but suboptimal content passed off as endorsed by you is not. This should give you further incentive to check and double check every time that your brand is tagged in a post.

For more depth on this topic, I would strongly encourage you to check out the fantastic Atlantic article “Rising Instagram Stars Are Posting Fake Sponsored Content” by the excellent writer Taylor Lorenz. She dives deep into the issue, interviewing fake influencers and marketers to those fake influencers, as well as identifying the problems behind the phenomenon.

As a treat, I’ll leave you with a wonderful example of fake influencer marketing, as well as a blast from the past. 

Aaron Carter: always on the cutting edge of the culture. Happy Friday!