A recent article published by the Wall Street Journal reports some brands are curbing their spending in the Influencer Marketing space due to the industry being “riddled with deceit”. And while companies should safeguard themselves against the very real costs of fake followers and inflated engagement rates, the fact remains that Influencer Marketing has a significantly higher ROI for brands than traditional advertising. 11 times higher, to be exact.

With a projected $8+ billion in spending this year, Influencer Marketing has become one of the fastest-growing industries around, with no signs of slowing down in speed or efficacy.

The way in which brands can use social media to authentically connect with new customers is changing, but that doesn’t mean the Influencer Marketing industry as a whole is any less effective. In fact, 71% of marketers report the quality of leads from Influencer Marketing campaigns is better than those from other marketing channels.

Influencer Marketing, when done right, gives brands the opportunity to connect to their ideal audience with a personal touch, at scale.

But one thing is certain: when it comes to effective Influencer Marketing, authenticity matters (in more ways than one).

Protecting brands from the very real cost of fake followers

The perceived need to inflate their reach in order to charge a higher price per post has caused many influencers to buy likes and purchase followers, many of whom are fake. Beyond the obvious fraud of buying your way into the big leagues, there are other, more covert ways that influencers can scam the system.

A study by professor Roberto Cavazos concludes that all these fraudulent practices are costing brands an estimated $1.3 billion loss across the influencer marketing industry. That sounds scary, but at the core of the issue, all this means is that brands are going to need to get smarter about hiring influencers with an authentic following if they want to avoid those losses. And luckily, new technology is emerging that allows them to do exactly that.

Measuring Authenticity in Influencer Marketing

Exciting new technologies are constantly emerging that allow brands to measure influencer authenticity, and more effectively track and report the success of campaigns. Thought leaders like Tagger are finding innovative solutions to navigate these changes in the market while increasing ROI in a measurable way.

Tagger’s influencer marketing platform allows brands to measure an influencer’s authenticity by analyzing a few key metrics. A variety of tools and algorithms have the ability to flag inauthenticity in profiles by evaluating factors such as suspiciously fast growth, comment monitoring, and more to determine true authenticity for any Instagram account over 5,000 followers.

With this new tech, we now have the ability to probe years of historical data points to see problem areas. For example, suspicious jumps in follower counts often occur when users purchase followers, growing their follower count instantly and then tapering off suddenly. Additionally, similar comments on multiple posts from the same accounts raise a red flag as it’s highly unlikely that the same audience members would comment on two distinct posts in the exact order. This shows that there is likely a bot farm that rotates through each fake account one-by-one to leave comments on the post. And speaking of comments, while it’s typical for accounts to have a global audience, it’s rare to see multiple comments in a foreign language that differs from their primary location.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which technology is learning to flag accounts that show any kind of suspicious or inauthentic behavior.

Correcting a loss of consumer trust

Because of this small population of “bad actors” in the industry, consumers have grown increasingly wary of being scammed on social media. While marketers may feel a need to respond to this loss of consumer trust by backing off on spending, they should instead look at the big picture. Yes, the way consumers perceive influencer marketing is changing, but it doesn’t mean the influencer marketing industry as a whole is any less effective.

Brands who take care to use data-driven research methods to dial in to their ideal customer base and their affinities will see influencer campaigns that are exponentially more successful. It’s not just about getting as many eyes on your content as possible, customers are much more likely to engage with content that is curated to their specific likes. Using filters and data-driven research to plan campaigns will increase brands’ ROI, and build consumer trust.

The way in which customers interact with social media is evolving. More and more, users intentionally seek out content that is specific to their likes and desires. Exciting new technology gives us more insight into customer affinities and behavior than ever before, and also allows brands to connect with the perfect influencer whose audience already matches their ideal base.

Though the way we market to consumers in the influencer space has changed in the last year, the efficacy of the industry as a whole continues to grow. Brands will still see the highest possible ROI with influencer marketing over traditional advertising methods today, and in the year to come.