Sunday 6 January 2019 5:38 pm

Brands 'waste' millions as extent of Instagram influencer fraud revealed

Brands are wasting millions of pounds on marketing as Instagram influencers buy fake followers to boost their reach.

A report by US marketing specialist Captiv8 has revealed that $2.1bn was spent on influencer-sponsored Instagram posts in 2017 but more than 11 per cent of engagement on those posts was generated from fraudulent accounts.

It said almost a quarter of a billion dollars had been “wasted” as a result.

Influencers are able to charge more for positive posts about products, the more followers they have on platforms, such as Instagram.

“When you’re investing in an influencer campaign you want to know you’re reaching and engaging with real people – not fake followers,” Captiv8 said.

“But brands often struggle to differentiate genuine engagement from automation, leaving them with little choice but to cross their fingers and hope for the best – that strategy has not worked,” it added.

Influencers promoting the fashion industry with 14 per cent of all engagement generated by fake accounts or ‘bots’.

Captiv8 released a raft of data for companies to identify fake accounts and the reach of their sponsored posts.

Last year Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed called for urgent action to tackle influencer fraud and announced the company would no longer work with influencers who buy followers on social media.

Between April and September last year Facebook removed more than 1.5bn fake accounts, and Instagram also fought back deleting inauthentic accounts.