We read an article last week on Digiday about Influencer Agencies. It was called “Chasing Scale, Instagram Influencer Networks Cut Corners“, you can go read it but we’ll summarize it. It suggests that Influencer agencies force their roster of creators to engage with others they represent. There’s also some expert opinions tossed in by influencer marketing agencies (with some subtle plugs about how THEY don’t do that.) While the premise of the article is interesting, it doesn’t actually provide any real evidence. It’s a half-baked generalization based on anonymous data from 2 influencers. It’s basically a Digiday article.
DISCLOSURE: I was sourced in a couple articles about Instagram Pods in Digiday last year and they had asked me to comment on this story as well. I somehow imagine they won’t be contacting me again haha.
Let’s Actually do the Research
Digiday has great content ideas, but never actually follow through on them. It’s a bit like a tabloid in that regard – they say something provocative and people share it because it’s provocative… but they don’t actually back it up with anything. Probably a volume thing, when people only read headlines, who cares about finding out the facts right? Well, we operate differently… we actually want to find out what’s going on behind the best (and worst) in this industry. So, taking their article to the next step, WE DID THE RESEARCH!
We took a look at FIVE influencer agencies. For each agency, we looked at EVERY Instagrammer on their roster. Pulling data from the most recent three images and noting when others on the roster commented or liked the post. Then with that data, were able to generate a cross-interactivity rate %. And if you’re wondering… yes this was a lot of mind-numbing work… Are other influencers on a roster disproportionally interacting with others in their agency?
Agency #1: Shine Influencers
After looking at 38 Influencers, and 114 images (with thousands of comments and tens of thousands of likes)… our crossover score for their influencers is 5.63%. All things considered, that’s a pretty low number. There’s GOING to be some crossover because the many are in the same city. Some likely go to the same events and become casual friends. So five percent isn’t all that crazy. There’s no sign here that Shine encourages or forces their influencers to interact.
Agency 2: Fourth Floor Management
In this case, we examined the 19 influencers on their roster… and found a higher correlation! But, still no smoking gun. 12.7% was what we determined to be the average participation rate between each of the influencers. While higher, if we’re trying to find encouragement/mandatory engagement we’re wanting to see 50%+ kind of numbers.
Agency 3: Sixteenth
With their focus on health (and beauty… god damn), this felt like it could be a real chance to find a forced crossover. But, the numbers don’t prove it. The cross interaction among influencers at Sixteenth is just 4.7%. Darn, still no smoking gun.
Agency 4: Dulcedo
In this case, we’re going to specifically look at their “CONTENT CREATORS” section. 29 total influencers. But again, no indication of any kind of collusion to inflate numbers… in this case a crossover rate of only 2.65%.
Agency 5: Hashtag Communications
In fairness, Hashtag Communications seems to be less of a talent representation than it is influencer marketing (with connections to several major YouTubers). So, this one was modified to look at recent SPONSORED content on each of the influencers (on Instagram). The result was a 1% crossover. Not even when cash is involved does there seem to be encouragement.
Conclusion: Influencer Agencies are NOT Chasing Scale and Cutting Corners
Let’s be honest here – it would be AMAZING to have a ‘gotcha’ moment. To be able to go “HA! CAUGHT YA’LL CHEATING”, but the data doesn’t show that. It’s possible there are agencies doing this, but that Digiday article makes it sound like it’s common practice. I mean, at the VERY least they could have run the numbers on the TWO sources without exposing them right? That would have been SOMETHING… The real culprit on fake engagement is Instagram Pods, which ARE a real thing and are a major problem. The only thing we’ve proved is that Digiday relies way too much on anonymous information to create their content creator hit pieces…
C’est la vie. Happy Friday all!