The Dark Side of Social Media: Influencer Marketing Fraud

Disadvantages of Social Media and Influencer Marketing

The best thing about social media is that anyone can become who they want to be. However, the bad side, from a business’s viewpoint, is that you might not be in existence at all. If you’re working with paid online influencers, you are, no doubt, familiar with influencer fraud.

Influencer fraud is a crisis that takes place when paid online influencers use an unnaturally excessive number of followers. In return, they’re likely to raise their asking rate for engaging users on your brand.

But, even if you’re not working with online influencers, your content marketing might not still be safe from fraud. Here are some reasons why.

The Shakedown

The enormity of social media’s dark side is, without a doubt, sending strong waves in the digital marketing industry. In particular, the social media channels themselves. For instance, according to the recent New York Times investigation, fifteen percent of Twitter users were automated accounts.

These accounts are then used to engage with real people. Twitter retaliated by commencing Twitter’s purge. By this, millions of accounts that are likely fake will be, for the most part, extracted.

As a result, and according to Variety, the fake-user purge resulted in massive follower drops, especially for the most popular influencers.

Trickle-down economics

A lot of consumers and users feel like they are being cheated and defrauded by their favorite social networks, such as Facebook. When the rumors of Facebook’s bot issues arose, it appears that this is a crucial factor in why some users distrusted the site.

For content marketers, a drop in your business’s social media profiles because of removed accounts can quantify millions in wasted advertising spending. Also, the probability for your business to get unintentionally absorbed in spambot warfare is high.

As such, it’d be best to concentrate on creating content for your audience on social channels you own and handle.

How can Brands take the Issue Downstream?

If the user’s trust and belief in social media rapidly decline, will the marketing economy be, for the most part, pulled down by it? Well, not precisely if huge companies such as Unilever have nothing to say.

According to The Wall Street Journal, huge companies like Unilever, which spends about $9 billion a year on its marketing brand, are scouting for fraud by forbidding influencers who use deceitful means to increase their rankings.

Unilever’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Keith Weed, has been vocal in his aspiration for effective social marketing reforms. Besides, he is also active in calling for development in measurement and failure to make sure that issues like this get resolved.

Bots vs. Bots

If you are not able to resolve the bot-follower or automated follower dilemma, why not accept and adopt the technology facilitating it? It is a question most businesses are posing themselves as the probability of utilizing online personas, and virtual influencers take shape.

According to Adweek, taking advantage of these Artificial Intelligence-driven or automated accounts excludes the menace of a swindler. And all the while engaging and tapping into a vast audience.

Though moral clauses, intellectual property ownership, and the capability to bolster long-term engagement are a few of the potential pitfalls, it is not impossible to believe that bots are a much safer option than the online social influencers of the world.

How to Detect Frauds

In an era where technology and machines can replicate human emotion, how can you detect or spot which influencers are real or not? To tell which is legit or not, it helps to examine and assess the methods influencers use to acquire followers and engagement.

First and foremost, buying followers. Sometimes, people buy followers to increase their numbers. Some websites allow you to buy a certain amount of followers at a set price. Yes, it’ll surely boost your numbers. However, the followers you gained are not authentic. Meaning, they do not react to your content.

Another way to detect fraud is to study an influencer’s content. The probability of an influencer gaining lots of followers with a few posts is slim. If that is the case, the influencer must have bought the followers.

Moreover, the lifespan of an account is a crucial indicator of the authenticity of an influencer. You can rely on influencers who know how to multiply their followers as well as their engagement in the long run. If they can do it on their brand, then they can also do it to yours.


Social media’s popularity and power allow almost anyone to create and develop a public persona, gain followers, and act as a pitch person for your content and brand. However, if you’re thinking of tapping into an influencer’s pool of followers, be sure to know if what they offer is authentic.

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