As influencer marketing has grown – it is forecast to be worth somewhere between $5bn and $10bn by 2020 – so too has the potential for fraud, and marketers need to proceed with caution, warns an LA-based industry expert.

Instagram is the most common channel where influencers artificially inflate their numbers to attract spending by marketers, according to Rochelle Bailis, VP of marketing, at influencer marketing agency Mediakix.

And she knows whereof she speaks: last year Mediakix created a fake Instagram persona, accumulated 50,000 followers and a few rounds of fake likes and comments, which led to its @calibeachgirl310 account securing offers from a swimsuit company and a nationally-known food and beverage brand.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, the topic of which is influencer marketing, she assesses the impact of Instagram’s efforts to reduce inauthentic activity on the platform and offers advice to marketers on what actions they can take. (For more details, read the full article: Eight tips for spotting fake influencers on Instagram.)

Instagram has cracked down on an undisclosed list of third-party apps that peddle in purchased engagement, but past activity will not be affected, so marketers should still be scrutinising any potential influencer for inauthentic activity.

That means checking if the number of followers is reflected in the volume of content and the rate at which their following has grown. Engagement rates and viewing metrics should also be analysed.

“One of the best ways to identify fake Instagram followers is to read through the comments on their posts,” Bailis says. “If you see a lot of repeated phrases, replies in a foreign language, or vague exclamations like ‘cute!’ this may be a sign of purchased engagement.”

As Instagram continues to grow, the problem of fraud will likely evolve, she adds, and the platform will likely expand its ban on third-party apps, but new services will strive to find subtler tactics or loopholes to boost numbers in ways that appear organic.

This issue of Admap - Influencer marketing: beyond the hype - features a selection of articles by thought leaders from across the globe. WARC subscribers can access the deck Influencer marketing: Beyond the hype which summarises the expert advice and key recommendations from all the authors.

Sourced from Admap, Buzzoole; additional content by WARC staff