What’s Worse Than Fake News? Fake Influence

By: Rob Gregory

Despite a tumultuous 2017, there’s good news for brands and marketers concerned about the proliferation of fake news and fraudulent influencers.

In his new hit book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, Kurt Andersen demonstrates that this post-factual “fake news” moment we’re all living through is not something new but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

And that’s exactly how it’s been with stage one of the age of Influence Marketing.  

A whole new generation of P.T. Barnums, whom Andersen mentions repeatedly in his book, and hucksters have exploited the power of social networks to create the illusion of influence, buy fake followers, game the social networks and pass themselves off to brands as believable and effective spokespeople who can actually impact sales.

Ask any of the brave brands that, to their credit, have been willing to experiment the last ten years, from the rent-a-tweet early era of branded content to the rise of Instagram as a dominant platform today, what they’ve learned. And they’ll tell you; the space is awash with fake followers, unsafe brand environments and outright fraud by paid influencers who take the money and never even post.

The good news is that, when done right, influence marketing works. By setting clear campaign strategies, casting the right influencer using WHOSAY Match, targeting the audience and measuring as media, we at WHOSAY have been able to effectively kill the snake oil era of influence marketing with an emerging yet consistent set of standards and tough questions that brands and their agencies can now insist on. Here are a few:

• Has the influencer you are about to pay good money to ever bought fake followers?

• Has he or she ever gone to work as a creator or endorser for a competitive product?

• What about brand safety: have they posted inappropriate content in the past? Been convicted of a DUI or other infraction?

• Are they prepared to follow the brand brief, show up on time, and behave professionally?

This shift to a more professional and reliable influencer environment is being embraced by more and more smart marketers and the budgets allocated to this kind of welcomed story making aimed at actual, human fans are increasing exponentially. Great news for professional influencer talent, great news for fans and great news for brands.

Rob Gregory is WHOSAY's President of Sales & Marketing