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  • Writer's pictureReed Morales

How To Protect Your Brand from Influencer Fraud

As brands continue to realize just how powerful influencer marketing can be, they’re spending more and more money on influencer campaigns. According to Business Insider’s 2020 Influencer Marketing Report, brands are expected to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. With plenty of ad spend to go around, influencer fraud has plagued the influencer marketing space, robbing brands of an estimated $1.3 billion.

While the majority of influencers have worked hard to build an authentic brand and genuine following, there are plenty of those who have resorted to dishonest and fraudulent methods to land brand deals and sponsorships. At first glance, influencer fraud can be hard to spot. Here’s everything you need to know to protect your brand from influencer fraud.

What is Influencer Fraud?

Influencer fraud is when an individual uses unethical and dishonest ways to establish a following and receive engagement, such as buying fake followers, and then uses the fraudulent data to obtain brand deals, win sponsorships, and make money. The most common fraudulent influencer activities include purchasing fake followers and fake engagement, such as likes and comments. This means that brands who partner with fraudulent influencers are paying to reach an audience that doesn’t exist.

How to Protect Your Brand from Influencer Fraud

Thoroughly Review the Influencer’s Profile

Before partnering with an influencer, take the time to thoroughly review their profile. Look at how long their account has been active, how many followers they have, how many posts they have, and how often they post. If they have thousands of followers but their account is new with very few posts, they likely purchased those followers. Unless the influencer is a celebrity, a sudden influx of followers on a barren account is a big red flag.

(Before partnering for a campaign, you should also make sure that the influencer and your brand align. Here are more tips for choosing the right influencer.)

Determine the Influencer’s Engagement Rate

Another indication of influencer fraud is a large following with very little engagement. If you’re vetting an influencer with a huge following, you need to take a close look at their engagement rate. According to one study of several thousand brand posts, the median engagement rate on Instagram is 3.5%. So, if you’re considering partnering with an influencer who has 100,000 followers, a healthy number of organic engagements (likes and comments) per post would be around 3,500. If the influencer with 100,000 followers is only receiving a few dozen engagements on posts, it’s likely that a large portion of their followers are fake.

Examine the Quality of Engagements

Every influencer, even the fraudulent ones, understands that engagement is key when it comes to landing brand deals. Fake engagement can easily be purchased just like fake followers. One way to spot fake engagement is to read through the comments on an influencer’s posts. If most of the comments make no sense or appear to be coming from incomplete accounts, the influencer may have paid for those fake comments.

Comments and likes from the same accounts over and over again are another thing to look out for when reviewing an influencer’s engagement. Some influencers participate in engagement pods in which participants like and comment on each other’s posts in an effort to inflate engagement rates. Engagement pods are especially deceiving because the engagement is coming from real accounts, however, the participants of these engagement pods are unlikely to be the target audience of the influencer’s brand partners.

Look for Past Brand Partnerships

Take some time to review the influencer’s past social media campaigns if they have any. Look at the quality of campaign content and review engagements. Is the content on-brand and high quality? Are they receiving a healthy number of engagements? Do those engagements appear to be coming from legitimate accounts? If an influencer appears to have had several successful brand partnerships, they’re more likely to be the real deal.

(Learn how to plan, create, and execute a successful social influencer campaign with these helpful tips.)

Unfortunately, fraudulent influencers are very good at finding new ways to deceive brands. Finding a credible influencer who aligns with your brand can be very overwhelming. To minimize your risk of influencer fraud, consider working with a professional agency with a solid reputation. At Agency 133, we specialize in procuring endorsements for our clients, as well as helping brands accomplish marketing objectives through brand partnerships. We’ve cultivated genuine and strategic partnerships between our roster of remarkably talented influencers and a wide variety of brands, including Dodge, MasterCraft Boats, GoPro, Dannon, Powerbar, Ford and many more.

To learn more about how we can help your brand reach your marketing goals in a meaningful and authentic way, shoot us an email at For more influencer marketing tips, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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