Creative Talent, Premium Content & Paid Media Are Solving the Fake Followers 'Problem'
Make no mistake; fake followers are perceived as a problem that could undermine influencer marketing. After all, would you want to partner with someone who intentionally inflates her follower count with fake bots?
But luckily, as Paul Kontonis wrote in an op-ed for Social Media Week, fake followers are not as big of a problem as we once thought they were. "The fear coming from the 'fake follower' conversation is seen as a backlash on influencer marketing," the WHOSAY CMO wrote. "Truthfully, it’s a backlash on an outdated approach that experience and data completely refutes."
According to the Op-Ed, the branded content game is not about how many followers a particular creator has but about how the brand can collaborate with her, tapping the power of creativity to support its messaging across platforms and audiences.
Aside from creativity, the other critical part of the process is an optimized paid distribution plan that brands are increasingly using to put their money behind the particular audiences they know are going to interact with their content. Since specific subsets of these audiences are often outside of the creator's ecosystem, the “fake followers vs. real followers” conversation starts losing relevance at this point.
Brands are starting to realize that it’s best to work with influencers primarily, not for their reach but their creativity. It's a strategy that makes sense, especially in an era when social platforms keep optimizing their algorithms for paid targeting across multiples subsets of audiences—on social media and beyond.
Successful influencer marketing campaigns typically target the subsets of a creator's audience which will have the most impact on the brand. Similarly, a proper paid media strategy will discover, target and engage other subsets of viewers, outside the creator's following. It's a win-win situation as both creators and brands usually increase their audiences thanks to the optimized reach of a paid media campaign.
That's why premium creative is so paramount. As Kontonis said, "The combination of creative talent and premium content can be distributed beyond social and into third-party publishers, out-of-home, television and ad networks to achieve the best performance possible." Aside from brand and creator, the audience also wins by receiving a value proposition from a well created and executed campaign. Quality creative shouldn’t be limited to the followers of a single individual influencer.
Ultimately, brands and marketers don't want to work with creators who buy fake followers, but not for the reasons we previously thought. As the industry moves to consolidate trustful, long-term relationships that result in premium branded creative that cuts through the marketing clutter and deliver results, the focus is shifting towards professional and creative talent combined with targeted and optimized paid distribution. It's both an art and a science and the sky's the limit.
Header photo credit: Carson Arias