PHONY Instagram celebrities are being dumped by travel, beauty and fashion advertisers in a backlash against “influencers” using social media trickery to boost their profiles.
Industry insiders told The Saturday Telegraph that companies were moving their advertising dollars away from social media “influencers” after fears they weren’t getting a return on their investment because too many had created a “false economy” by buying followers.
Underhand tactics like using bots to write fake comments or purchasing followers has become so rife that even some PR companies encourage their clients to buy followers.
It comes as Sydney fashion week organisers IMG admitted this week they had shifted their focus away from social media influencers when filling seats.
Lauren Bath, who quit her job after making enough money from Instagram in 2014, said companies were now putting influencers in the “too hard basket” because they couldn’t distinguish who had a genuine audience.
Digital strategist Hugh Stephens, director of Dialogue Group, agreed there was going to be a reduction in the total amount of money that is allocated to influencer marketing, particularly for Instagram, as a result of the rise of the “fake famous”.
As well as the question of fake followers, brands paying money to influencers for promotion are dogged by an inability to distinguish exactly where an influencer’s following is based geographically, social media expert Laurel Papworth said.
New advertising standards that require influencers to label paid posts as “ads” have also eroded instagrammers’ ability to subtly influence their followers.
Ms Bath told The Saturday Telegraph it has become common place for some instagrammers to use “comment pods” where they teamed up to write favourable comments on each other’s sponsored posts so brands would believe they were getting a positive engagement.
“But these people have no real influence and brands aren’t going to get a return on their investment,” she said.
It is understood that Instagram’s own algorithm for displaying posts at the top of a user’s feed mean these non-genuine comments also influence exposure of any paid post.
Ms Bath said talent companies who represented influencers were even encouraging their clients to buy followers and use automation.
“The problem is that it’s become so common, that they (Instagrammers) think using automation is the only way to gain a following,” Ms Bath said.
Known as “influencers”, instagrammers with the biggest follower counts are able to charge brands thousands of dollars for sponsored posts. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner are rumoured to earn more than $40,000 per post.
Copies of invoices from some of Sydney’s biggest PR firms obtained by The Saturday Telegraph can reveal instastars are regularly charging brands more than $1000 a post to promote their products, plus a 15 per cent handling fee to the agency.
Carla Efstratiou is the owner of Stylehub, a booming online fashion label with two brick and mortar stores in Sydney.
Ms Efstratiou said she regularly hired Instagrammers to promote her label, but had been burnt by those with fake followers.
“We’ve had some who’ve had a million followers, but when they promoted our clothes we had literally no sales or feedback,” Ms Efstratiou said.
“I started looking over her posts and realising the traction didn’t make sense. She was getting a 1000 likes a minute, which is impossible.”
“I think part of the problem is everyone thinks they’re instafamous … every day I get bombarded by instagrammers asking for free clothes.”
Roxy Jacenko, whose company Ministry of Talent represents multiple influencers, however, said she told her clients not to buy followers.
“Numbers are not the be-all and end-all anymore. Suitable alignments are the key to success and you’ll find that micro influencers with followings under 100k can often provide the highest ROI for businesses,” she said.
Originally published as ‘Everyone thinks they are instafamous’