Imagine that your brand has partnered with seemingly popular influencers to promote the launch of a new product. Your team is in a hurry, excited about working with influencers. But nobody realizes the importance of vetting the influencers and their followers first.

You’ve sunk a lot of money and time into these influencer marketing campaigns, and maybe initially, there’s a buzz around them. But as the days pass, you find you’re not getting the engagement, leads, traffic or conversions you expected. So exactly what happened?

It’s simple. Fake followers might have delivered a sucker punch to your campaign. Fake followers are a problem for brands because they falsely inflate influencers’ numbers. It’s a problem you might encounter working with anyone from micro-influencers to top celebrity influencers. And they often do it to an outrageous degree.

More than 60 percent of marketers and brands reported having dealt with influencer fraud in previous campaigns, according to an Influencer Marketing Hub study. It’s a problem that’s gotten so bad that it’s spurred the growth of companies dedicated to detecting influencer-follower fraud.

Unscrupulous influencers buy fraudulent followers from shady vendors who do a booming global business. But because these followers aren’t real people, their likes, comments and follows aren’t real either. Instead of live human followers, what you’ve blown your budget on are actually bots programmed to mimic the actions of real followers.

Or, say the influencer has paid human followers. They’re probably not members of the market you want to target, and their engagement isn’t genuine. Which means they’re probably not interested in what you’re selling, and your campaign isn’t going to reach its goals.

Why Are Fake Followers a Problem for Brands?

Fake followers are a problem for brands for a host of reasons. For starters, they’re costly and don’t deliver the ROI you need. They can also affect your brand’s image and credibility with consumers when they realize your followers aren’t authentic. Fake followers result in ineffective social media marketing campaigns with far-reaching effects. So if it seems like your social media campaign is running in place and not getting anywhere, fake followers are potential culprits.

Consumers can often sense when an influencer’s followers aren’t real and will be turned off by the empty hype. Surrounded by fake followers on social media, real followers may find the influencer increasingly inauthentic. They might then start dropping off in droves. As the influencer loses followers, your brand’s social media reach shrinks, too.

What’s the Benefit of Working with Influencers Who Have Real Followers?

Working with influencers who have real followers is beneficial to brands because these influencers deliver results. Their enthusiasm for your product and follow-through is real. And real followers share posts with other people who also become real followers, customers and advocates of your brand.

Influencers that work to get real, organic growth with their followers are more likely to be in it for the long term. They’re not looking to make a quick buck by buying thousands of followers to mislead brands into short-term partnerships. If influencers are trustworthy when it comes to their followers, that honesty likely carries over into their dealings with brands in general.

Real followers can also give genuine feedback about your product that you can use to tweak it or to address any customer service issues. Fake followers that only post generic positive statements about your brand can make it difficult to see problems you need to fix. They create a false sense of success that can cause big problems with production and budgeting for the future.

Why Brands Should Run a “Fake Followers Check” on Influencers

There are many reasons why it’s important for brands to run a fake followers check on influencers.

  • To Protect Your Brand’s Reputation: Your brand’s reputation can take a real hit from a partnership with an unscrupulous influencer whose followers aren’t real. When the fraud is exposed, social media platforms can quickly disable the shady influencer accounts. Your brand gets the blowback when consumers question its trustworthiness and assume guilt by association. If it looks like you didn’t know or care about what you were doing with your influencer campaign, repairing its image can be costly. You don’t want your campaign to become a punchline. And, it takes work and time to rebuild your brand’s credibility.
  • To Get Ahead of the Competition: This benefit is pretty straightforward. Say your brand works with influencers who have real followers, but your competition doesn’t. Your campaign will likely be successful, while your competitors’ campaigns won’t. If the rest of the pack is relying on followers that don’t exist, your brand can more easily pull ahead.
  • To Protect Your Job and Your Reputation: Think of the potential consequences if your brand’s powers that be find out that you didn’t run a fake followers check. It could be difficult for them to justify keeping you on in your position. Word gets around in even the biggest industries, so remember to protect your reputation as well as that of your brand. Running a check on fake followers can also help you learn what to look out for with future influencer marketing campaigns.
  • For Consistent Growth: If you partner with an influencer who has reams of fake followers, you have to start from scratch when the fraud becomes apparent. You’ll need to start the search for influencers all over again and risk partnering with another influencer with questionable followers. Real followers mean that you continually build on your success and quickly see and fix any problems that might pop up.
  • To Get the Best ROI: Collaborating with an influencer who has fake followers is a money-losing proposition. It’s the equivalent of your brand’s real live sales team pitching your new product to a stadium full of crash-test dummies. The content you’ve sunk time and money into is of little value if it’s reaching far fewer people than you think. When you partner with influencers who have real followers, you create a solid, reliable foundation that helps your brand grow. As you continue to partner on campaigns with influencers who have real followers, as their audiences grow, you benefit from the increased exposure.
  • To Learn from Reputable Influencers: When you collaborate with influencers that have real followers, you have the opportunity to learn from them. What kind of content do they create that draws followers who also happen to be your ideal target market? How do they do it? How have they gained their followers’ trust, enthusiasm and loyalty? When their real followers engage with content that performs well for your brand, you can strike a deal to repurpose it across channels.

Remember, just as you spend time and money researching your target market, it’s important to thoroughly research the influencers you’re considering partnering with. Running a fake follower check can help you find influencers that truly reach the audience you want. It’s a simple action that can protect your brand on a number of fronts and produce long-term benefits.