Top social media stars are today’s celebrities, and none are more recognized than the best Instagrammers. The top Instagram influencers are followed by millions of devoted fans on the internet and have become icons in popular culture. Instagrammers are living the life: not only are they creating content that they are passionate about, but they are also getting paid through brand sponsorships.
Naturally, thousands are following suit. The number of aspiring influencers is leading to an influx of content to individual users and the saturation of content is making it more difficult for influencers to stand out. So difficult in fact, that influencers are turning to means other than unique content to capture the attention of audiences, including fake activity. Simulated engagement has captured the attentions of everyone around the world, and we break down the three most significant trends regarding fake activity on Instagram: Instapurge, Podghazi, and #SponCon.
As Instagram has grown in popularity, the prevalence of fake accounts with fake engagement with purchased likes and comments has grown on the platform. The simplicity of purchasing engagement has certainly catalyzed the rise of fake accounts and many advertisers may not be readily able to discern such activity. For instance, a recent study conducted by Mediakix found that brands looking to partner with accounts social can be susceptible to sponsoring fake accounts.
In an effort to prevent deceptive activity, Instagram implemented what is now widely known as the “Instapurge”. The Instagpure sought to eliminate fake accounts on the platforms, which includes computer-generated spam bots. The last major Instapurge occurred in 2014. Overnight, accounts were deleted for violating Instagram’s terms of service, and influencer and top celebrity Instagram accounts saw a massive cut in followers the next day.
Despite Instagram’s attempt to inhibit fake activity on the platform, it continues to be a problem for influencers, marketers, and advertisers. In particular, it’s increasingly difficult to determine genuine engagement.
Nonetheless, influencers and marketers can still leverage new and popular features on Instagram to verify accounts and real-time engagement. For instance, influencers and marketers can use Instagram Stories and Instagram Live Stories to create content that is timely, in-the-moment, and difficult to fake.
Related Post: How To Identify Fake Followers On Instagram
The emergence of Instagram pods is similarly complicating the influencer marketing landscape.
In June 2016, Instagram changed the sorting algorithm for individual user news feeds so that posts began to be sorted by popularity rather than chronological order. As a result, small content creators were seeing their work pushed down on social feeds by most established accounts.
In response, pods of 10-20 small influencers are forming and working to increase engagement among their accounts by commenting and liking their own content. Generally, pods are organized by theme or niche, for example, in fitness, lifestyle, or travel categories. Increased engagement on pod accounts have successfully led to content that ranks higher in popularity on Instagram’s feed.
The rise of Instagram pods, or Podghazi, is giving aspiring Instagrammers an opportunity to be seen on the platform. With pods though, marketers will still face difficulties in measuring engagement. For instance, pods can heavily skew engagement on a sponsored post and make engagement seem much higher than it actually is.
To gain a better understanding of an influencer’s Instagram engagement, marketers should establish processes to inspect the comment section of influencer’s feed and determine whether there are consistent groups of people commenting on posts. If the influencer appears to be in a pod, marketers will still need to weigh the benefits of possible increased engagement and exposure with impairments in engagement measurement.
The rise of social media has mainly given way to sponsored advertising and influencer marketing. Influencer marketing utilizes highly followed figures, or influencers, on social media to appeal to mass audiences in unexpected places. Advertisers can partner with influencers on platforms to create authentic content and advertisements, making it more difficult for consumers to determine whether a social post is paid for not.
In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established that sponsored social media posts should include clear disclosures (e.g. #ad or #sponsored) to indicate whether a post is paid. Despite clear federal guidelines, social media influencers and advertisers are still failing to disclose sponsored posts. A Mediakix study, for instance, found that 93% of top celebrity Instagram endorsements violate FTC guidelines.
To avoid #SponCon, influencers and brands should properly disclose sponsored influencer content on social media to be transparent to consumers. Marketers should ensure that sponsored influencers are properly disclosing sponsored content with easily discernible tags and verbiage.