A Quick Guide to Identifying Real Vs. Fake Influencers (And why you should consider UGC instead)

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So you’re about to embark on the exciting world of Influencer Marketing and explore what it has to offer your brand, but you, like many, find yourself concerned about how to identify real versus fake influencers. This is a valid concern because thousands of fake “influencers” whose numbers are inflated, fake, and, to be blunt – a lie. In fact, in the world of social media, it seems there’s a disconnection when it comes to integrity and influencer marketing for many because so many deem it okay to purchase fake followers, views, or engagement, even though tactics like that won’t actually help in the long run.

Below is a short list of just a few things to look for when trying to identify real versus fake influencers.

Identifying real versus fake influencers starts with scrutinizing their engagement rate and quality. A legitimate influencer typically maintains a high and consistent engagement rate. Genuine interactions in their comments section are key  indicators of authenticity. In contrast, a fake influencer might show low or fluctuating engagement rates, often accompanied by generic or spam-like comments.

What do “spam-like” comments look like? Look for comments that consist of only emojis like the fire flame, thumbs up, or very generic comments written with poor grammar.

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Next, assess the quality of their followers. It’s not uncommon for influencers who lack integrity to boost their follower count with purchased or inactive accounts. Utilize third-party tools to analyze the authenticity of their followers. A high number of fake followers is a major warning sign. Check out Grin’s Free Fake Influencer Tool here.

Be wary of influencers with a sudden surge in followers. This often points to purchased followers, which are easy to spot: look for accounts with no activity or posts and those that have been dormant for extended periods and suddenly are active because they have a brand deal, and when they post, that post gets thousands of likes but only a few comments.

Requesting a media kit and analytics is also crucial. A credible influencer will provide detailed insights into their audience, reach, and performance. Be cautious of influencers who lack this information or seem hesitant to share it. Ralph The Baker, a friend and New Orleans-based Influencer with over 1M  TikTok Followers and 650k Instagram Followers, says, “I never hesitate to offer my media kit if a potential sponsor asks for it because I have nothing to hide. I’m proud of my numbers across all the various social networks. Anyone who shies away from sharing their analytics is likely hiding something.”

Pay attention to fluctuations in engagement. A legitimate influencer will naturally have some variance in post likes, but extreme inconsistencies can indicate purchased likes.

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Consider their presence across different social media platforms. Influencers usually have a primary platform, but as their popularity grows, their presence often expands to other platforms. A lack of presence beyond their main platform can be a red flag. Ralph the Baker, who we referenced earlier, is backed up with a robust following on Tiktok, Facebook, Snap, YouTube, AND Instagram BUT you will have to pay for that type of exposure if you’re lucky enough to find an empty spot on his sponsorship calendar.

Lastly, an influencer unwilling to share reviews or references from past collaborations might indicate a lack of confidence in their results.

Concerned about Budget? UGC can be a win-win Scenario.

If budget constraints limit access to well-established influencers, consider utilizing user-generated content (UGC). It can be a cost-effective and authentic alternative. UGC is when a brand hires a professional content creator who is not an influencer but is great at creating brand content – often in the form of a testimonial, review, unboxing, or demo.

Dr. Walter Sims, a long-time friend and UGC Creator who’s executed hundreds of UGC deals in the past 3-years for major national brands, told us that he “loves UGC because it gives him the flexibility to create content for brands he trusts while using his skills as a content creator, but without having the pressures of being an influencer.” Learn more about Dr. Sims here.

Many brands love UGC because it is typically much less expensive than hiring an influencer like Ralph the Baker, whose initial costs typically start around $10,000 per deal. A UGC video can often be purchased for around $200-$300 with a delivery time of less than one week.

Sam Michie, President and Founder of Social BlueBook, a UGC Training Academy that helps creators grow their UGC Business, says that “the advantage of UGC vs. Influencer Marketing is that it’s a new kind of WIN-WIN for both brands & creators. Creators win from paid collaborations with brands and aren’t confined to forcing sponsored content down the throat of an audience that may or may not be interested in it.  Brands win because they aren’t taking as big a risk in terms of their marketing spend and can stretch their dollar further to work with more creators.”

There’s no question about the value of influencer marketing when deployed correctly, but often, mistakes are made when brands rush into it or simply jump into it because they see other companies taking part. Be sure you have a plan, a budget, and a clear way to measure results.

Need help planning your strategy? I’m just a phone call away.