The marketing industry has a problem. And it’s a big problem, to the tune of around $1.3 billion dollars, writes Diana Pearl in AdWeek.
“That’s the amount marketers are expected to waste on fraudulent influencer marketing this year, according to a July 2019 global study from cybersecurity company Cheq and the University of Baltimore,” Pearl writes. “This means that nearly 18% of the overall amount marketers are spending on influencer marketing, which is $8.5 billion, according to Mediakix, is wasted.
That’s like taking close to 20% right off the top of any campaign and throwing it immediately into the garbage; justifying the use of social media influencers is likely to get harder from a business perspective.
“It’s part of the larger conversation around brand safety that’s dominated the marketing industry for years. But when that spend is wasted, those outside the marketing department will start to question the overall purpose and intent,” Pearl writes.
What other department can so blatantly choose to throw money away like that without being held accountable? Fortunately, companies like Cheq are helping to uncover the true scope of this fraud.
Social media platforms have a dog in this fight, too.
“Mark Zablow, founder and CEO of marketing agency Cogent Entertainment Marketing, said that the major reason the problem arose in the first place is that marketers used follower count as the primary metric when selecting influencers to work with,” Pearl writes.
This follower-based economy is the perfect breeding ground for fraud. Instagram is aiming to pull the plug on the focus on numbers, by hiding the number of “likes” on a particular post. But this doesn’t address the larger problem of follower count.
In fact, when a glitch caused many Instagram influencers to temporarily lose massive follower count back in February, the result was rampant panic by those who make their living based on that figure. That said, they have made progress clearing out many of the fake bot accounts.
Marc Pritchard (chief brand officer for Proctor & Gamble who made history when he told the digital ad industry to “grow up”), believes there is progress being made.
“I really give the different platforms credit for stepping up and essentially having to retrofit their platforms because they weren’t built for the media world,” said Pritchard. “And we work together with them to monetize those platforms through advertising.”
Brands will continue to use social media for exposure and reach; they can be a great way to do that. Yet they must do so with eyes wide open. Understand that not all influencers are worth their weight in clicks; we all know by the now the story of the potato with the large – and largely fake – following.
According to Mark Zablow, founder and CEO of marketing agency Cogent Entertainment Marketing, the only way to be sure you aren’t being ripped off starts by taking a decidedly low-tech approach.
“The only way to have a foolproof plan is to have a direct relationship with the influencers,” he said. “When you start a relationship with the influencer, you start to learn more about what’s actually true.”
It’s true in life, and it’s true in marketing. All is not as it seems on social media. Protecting your brand – and your brand’s marketing budget – depends on seeing these influencers as more than their numbers, and understanding how they can help amplify and boost your brand legitimately.