How easy is it to become an Instagram influencer? Two months and $300. At least that’s what an American influencer marketing company was able to do. Over the course of two months, Mediakix created two different Instagram accounts and get paid work. The kicker? Neither account was real, and the only influence they had was over how much they paid for followers and fake engagement. It’s scamfluence. You can read more about their experiment on their site, but I’ll give you the tl;dr below:
- Two accounts. One using royalty free images, the other using a model they shot photos of over a single day.
- Paid $3-$8/1000 followers to build the accounts to 30K and 50K followers.
- Paid $0.12/comment and $4-$9 for 1000 likes. (10-50 comments and 500-2500 likes per photo).
- Joined influencer marketing platforms and applied for paid gigs.
- Received 2 paid gigs per account: One swimsuit company, two food company, one alcohol brand.
How this Scamfluence Hurts Creators
On the surface, it’s obvious what they are trying to do. This little stunt is entirely about bringing Mediakix revenue. They are suggesting to brands that if you work with these cheap and easy influencer marketing networks, you’re going to get ripped off. So, instead of doing that, you should work with them. They do their research to ensure your brand gets value. While we can’t deny this is a fair point, it has the unintended consequence of hurting legitimate creators. In the short term, PR and brands who have read about this stunt will examine who they work with which will hurt those that are faking it. But worse still, this kind of stunt damages the reputation of influencer marketing as a whole. People will simply label ALL creators as fake. It’s what most people do when they read about something. It’s like any negative news about an advertising medium. Fortunately, the impact on these things is temporary. Even YouTube’s Adpocalypse is showing signs of recovery as it slowly re-acquires advertisers.
How this Helps Creators
Let’s be honest, if you’re a content creator you know at least a dozen people who are faking it. They are either lying about their metrics, buying likes, or doing shady follow-unfollow tactics. There are likely more people faking it than there are those who have legit followings. While the marketing world has gone to great lengths to call EVERYONE an influencer, they’ve done little to check up on who’s audience is real. When creators are intentionally using phony methods to build a following, it’s nothing more than their own scamfluence job.
We KNOW this is a major issue that drives creators insane. They are left wondering if they have to start playing the phony game if they want to compete with those who already game the system. It’s why articles like this help and hurt creators. They DO have the impact of making brands rethink who they work with. But it also delegitimizes it in the short term. In the long run, the better parts of this stunt do win as brands start to re-evaluate who they work with and why they work with someone. If you’re someone with a real following, you’ll start getting more opportunities. Instead of opting for the ‘bigger (fake) numbers’, they’ll go with great creators that fit their message. So, stay the course! Change is slow, but it is coming as we exit the teething phase of influencer marketing.