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Industry Contributor 15 Jul 2019 - 2 min read

57% of Instagram influencers ‘are engaging in fraud’

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

A global study of 1.84m Instagram accounts finds 57% of ‘influencers’ are engaging in some form of fakery, suggesting $744m of the $1.7bn poured by marketers into the channel is at risk of being wasted (PR Week).


Key points

  • Swedish firm A Good Company and analytics outfit HypeAuditor studied 1.84m Instagram accounts in 82 countries
  • Found 57% had bought comments, followers or used engagement bots
  • Also anonymously surveyed 400 influencers, finding more than 60% have at some point used either engagement pods, or bought comments, likes or followers. 20% said they will keep doing so
  • "Companies are pouring money into influencer marketing, thinking that they are connecting with real people and not Russian bots. In reality, they are pouring money down the drain and giving away free products to someone who acquired a mass following overnight" - A Good Company CEO and co-founder Anders Ankarlid


More evidence that paying people based on unverified reach is not a smart idea, and why platforms that help weed out the fakes are attracting investment. 

As the PR Week article suggests, weeding out fakes and assessing true reach and engagement is basic due diligence. And it's not as if social media and the broader digital ad ecosystem are fraud free. 

Meanwhile, some firms are driving massive growth and investment on the back of influencer-led marketing strategies: Fast fashion group Revolve uses a network of 3,500 influencers to flog clothes. Its shares have doubled five weeks since IPO, creating a $1.5bn fortune for its two founders. 

But the Swedish study is another timely reminder of why many marketers - and the platforms themselves - are starting to rethink the metrics of success.

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Paul McIntyre

Executive Editor

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