Move over Fake News: A New Tool to Spot Fake Engagement

David Diaz, Director, Davenport Laroche

New marketing tool Like-Wise was launched this week, and parent company Social Chain Group claims that the service will held firms identify how much of an influencers engagement is genuine- and how much of it is fake.

According to Social Chain Group, brands are typically defrauded of up to 96% of what they spend on individual media influencers, meaning this emerging marketing tool- once considered a silver bullet- might have a darker underbelly than previously thought.

Move over Fake News-A New Tool to Spot Fake EngagementLike-Wise collects data from the internet’s largest engagement bot farms, building a database of the tens of millions of fake profiles which seek to recreate engagement behavior by liking and commenting on social media posts.

At present, most monitors of an influencer’s efficacy will look at a user’s “engagement per post”. Bots, and their fraudster overlords, however, can game this system by selling or buying likes, views, and stock-standard comments.

When suspicious activity on an influencer’s page is identified by the Like-Wise tool, artificial intelligence technology is used to peg their engagement against organic engagement by human beings to root out bot behavior. It even understands the difference between paid promotion, shout-outs and other algorithmic outcomes, says Social Chain Group.

The tool has already been trialed with several major brands, unearthing one faux influencer as having a fake engagement rate of 96%. The user in question, labelled by Social Chain Group with the pseudonym “Jess”, charges $1,000 per post for her more than 20 clients- some of which include major high street brands.

Indeed, Social Chain Group has audited more than 10,000 influencers frequently called on by brands and agencies to promote products or services in various social media campaigns. According to the agency, Like-Wise indicates that more than one quarter of influencers have engaged in some kind of manipulation or fraud to boost their engagement claims.

Even so, growing concerns over influencer fraud are doing little to curb the growth of the industry. The size of the global influencer landscape is expected to grow to $2.38 billion by the end of 2019, doubling in size since it was recorded at $1.07 billion in 2017.

According to Steve Bartlett, founder and CEO of Social Chain Group, brands must be on their guard more than ever. “There are literally thousands of influencers who are making a full-time living out of creating the appearance of having a big audience, when in several cases 95% of their engagement is fake,” he says, “In real terms, you’re paying $1,000 to get 1,000 people to act, but really if I only get 50 people to act I’m stealing $950. When we went through how frequent it is, it’s incredible. Some of these people belong in prison because what they’re doing is fraud.”

As PR pros wise up to the shadows of the influencer marketing model, the prevalence of fraud will no doubt drop. In the meantime, however, the world of influencer marketing is still very much the wild west.

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