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Instagram influencer fraud rampant in India and Indonesia, new study reveals

Asian markets like India, Indonesia and Japan are among the world’s leading markets for fraud on Instagram, a new study has revealed. Commissioned by Swedish startup A Good Company and HypeAuditor, the study of 1.84 million accounts worldwide, estimated that $744 million is being lost to bots and mass followers.

While the US and Brazil top the list of countries affected by Instagram fraud, India and Indonesia are at number three and four. Japan is at number six.

Among the nations surveyed, Asian markets account for 58 million users who are either bots or mass followers, measured against Statista estimates of the total number of Instagram users from these countries.Among the problems highlighted by the survey was the large presence of ‘engagement pods’. Simply put, engagement pods are a quid pro quo arrangement where influencers who are part of a collective, routinely like and boost each others posts.

This is particularly true of micro-influencers who are valued disproportionately by niche brands due to the promise they hold of a connection with a relatively small but highly engaged audience. Micro influencers were also found to have the highest level of anomalies in followers and ‘automatic likes’ (likes from bots).

The study was commissioned by A Good Company’s CEO and co-founder Anders Ankarlid after he noticed that the firm’s micro-influencer driven strategy was not delivering desired results in terms of sales. The study concluded that:

1. Instagram’s monthly active users data might be overrated by approximately 45%

2. The net market size in 2019 is $956 million, a 45% drop from the most conservative report

3. Loads of brands pour serious money down the drain hunting engagement and likes

4. The shiniest toy in the store, micro-influencers are the ones cheating the system the most.

Speaking to Mumbrella on the reasons driving the research, Ankarlid said: “Looking at the lack of correlation between our influencer marketing spend and sales numbers, we did have a hunch that the fraudulent activity was in fact pretty high. That hunch is what got us digging deeper in the first place.”

Asked if he had any advice for marketers on telltale warning signs of influencer fraud, he added: “We recommend looking further at the correlation between your influencer marketing spend and your sales numbers. It could be that you are spending a big part of your budget on influencers without an organic following.”

Responding to Mumbrella, a spokesperson for Facebook said: “Inauthentic activity has no place on Instagram. That’s why we devote significant resources to detecting and stopping this behaviour so that Instagram continues to be a vibrant community where people can connect with the people and things they love.

“Since the early days of Instagram, we have auto-detected and removed fake accounts to protect our community. Last year, we took the additional step of removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.

“We’ve also built machine learning tools to help identify accounts that use these services and remove the inauthentic activity.” The social network had announced a cracked down on accounts that used third-party tools to boost their popularity in November last year. With its ability to detect and block third party tools improving, Facebook anticipated a decline in their use.

The full report from The Good Company which also includes details of an anonymous survey that the firm ran with its Instagram influencer community can be read here.

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