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10 August 2017

Influence or influenced? Why brands must be wary of being Instafooled

Written by: Blaine Doherty, Influencer Executive at Edelman

Consumer Trends & Insight, Technology

The popularity of influencer marketing is on the increase with some 75% of brands set to use it by the end of 2017. But as more and more jump on the influencer bandwagon, what should they be aware of to ensure they are not being taken for a ride and that they achieve their business objectives?

Like Peas in a Comment Pod

Instagram “Comment Pods” are a new phenomenon that certain influencers are joining to try and bump up the size of their followings and the amount of engagement with their content. A comment pod consists of a number of influencers, between 10 and 30, where all of the influencers engage with a post that any member of the pod has posted by having others like and comment on it.

This may sound innocent, but by using this method influencers are cheating the Instagram algorithm, which prioritises content with high levels of engagement – e.g. likes, views, but mainly comments, in users’ search feeds. This increases the exposure of content to a much wider audience, bumps up the levels of engagement that each post sees and raises the number of followers that influencers can gather.

If an influencer is part of a comment pod all of whom are focused on similar interests, then the brand will have a bigger audience who are interested in that specific topic engaging with their content. That’s perfect. However, if a comment pod is made up of influencers with different interests and therefore different audiences, this becomes a major issue. While the content an influencer posts might see good engagement, the brand won’t know if their target audience have actually engaged with it. This, in turn, will have a negative effect on their business objective.

Use of Instagram Bots

With more people recognising just how lucrative being an influencer can be, many are trying to become influencers themselves. But growing an audience organically is a time-consuming process, so to bulk up follower numbers quickly some influencers are turning to Instagram Bots for help.

These Bots work by controlling an Instagram account and sending it on a liking and following spree, where the account will begin to like and comment on hundreds, maybe even thousands, of random images and follow a similar number of random accounts. This is done in the hope that the random recipients of this like, comment or follow will then like, comment and maybe even follow the influencer in return.

While Bots essentially mimic the work that many influencers do to grow followings, there remains a serious lack of authenticity around the comments that it leaves on other pages. This has led many to feel that the use of Bots has cheapened Instagram, and some, Like Gil Eyal of Hypr, consider it a “grey hat” form of fraud as users are getting real engagement, but it’s not necessarily because people love their content. This is an issue for brands, as it makes it very difficult for them to ensure the content they are partnering with an influencer to create will even reach their target audience.

While it is encouraging to see more brands get involved in the influencer space, it is important for them to be aware of the potential pitfalls. Instagram bots and comment pods are current aspects, but as influencer marketing develops, what other ways may brands be “Instafooled”?

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