Since our inception back in 2012, the Ahalogy Vision has been to “create a multi-billion-dollar ecosystem where content creators, brands and end users all win. Creators are successful entrepreneurs. Brands are more meaningful. End users are delighted by the content we help them discover.”
We moved into the influencer marketing space just under two years ago for this very reason, but quickly noticed the discrepancies that exist in many influencer campaigns: questionable claims of impressions, clicks and reach; unreliable measurement and tracking; and a corrupt follower model that continues to worsen overtime. We have never relied on earned or claimed metrics in our influencer campaigns, but we decided to go further to bring a better model for the entire marketplace. Today Ahalogy announces the first (and so far only) third-party verification solution for influencer marketing.
It’s no secret that influencer marketing is hot right now. The topic has become a regular part of the brand marketer’s lexicon and it doesn’t appear to be slowing any time soon. On Instagram alone, influencer marketing is projected to grow from $1 billion in 2017 to over $2 billion by 2019. And payments to individual Influencers are soaring as high as $100,000 or more per campaign.
But that kind of investment is justified in a world where 41% of consumers use ad blocking software and 70% of Internet users want to learn about a product through useful content from authentic sources rather than traditional advertising. It only makes sense that brands are turning to influencers with pre-built followings to break through the clutter and reach their audience.
But just exactly who are you reaching when you trust an influencer to market your product? It’s not exactly breaking news that many social media users have learned to hack the system and inflate their followings without the having to commit to the harder work of creating quality content that resonates with real people. And as brands invest more marketing dollars into influencer campaigns, they’re looking closer at what they’re actually buying.
Third-party verification (TPV) is one way to ensure that the impressions and page views you pay for actually occurred and that they were seen by the correct audience. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) sets the standard and regularly audits verification providers (e.g. Moat, Integral, Nielsen, DoubleVerify) which means that the only way to truly verify a campaign is to use a third-party solution. Industry leaders are taking notice. P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard recently called for all digital media to be verified by third-party audits.
And while brands and agencies have used third-party verification (TPV) in digital display ads for years, the influencer market has not been asked to join the call—until now.
THE TRUTH IS IN THE FOLLOWING
The “follower model” employed by most brands and agencies to select influencers for campaigns has led to issues for influencer marketing. You’ve probably heard the bad press surrounding “Instafraud”—the platform’s recent crackdown on “follower bots” is just one story of many causing heightened concerns.
The number of followers an influencer has is often the only public number available, which means many influencer companies have to patch together enough influencers with high followings in hopes of getting the impressions they’re promising for a given campaign. As a result, most companies pay influencers based on how many followers they have, but this leads to a lot of bad stuff behind the scenes.
You can see the issue for yourself just by googling “buy followers” for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. You’ll find a wide range of companies running paid search to attract influencers to buy their solutions. Followers and traffic are often inflated by bots and offshore accounts. These days, there are literally hundreds of ways to buy followers or game the system so that you can make your numbers look bigger—and get paid more from brands and agencies.
A few months ago Ahalogy was presented with a study conducted by a large national fashion retailer with a +$1 million per year influencer budget. When the followers of their influencers were broken out for U.S.-based and Female (a pretty broad target), only 25% fit both. Even if these followers are “real,” most of them are not close to being who you want to reach.
That’s not to say the influencers themselves are all fraudulent. In reality, many influencers with some off-target followings still produce exceptional content and play a huge role in the success of influencer campaigns. Regardless, brands and agencies should know what they’re paying for through third-party verification solutions and Ahalogy is adding this to the laundry list of indicators we’ll look at when determining whether or not an influencer meets our quality standard.