Nearly 40% of all Instagram influencers in India were defrauded by software providers offering them tools to boost their follower count and engagement on the platform. A study by HypeAuditor, a platform for influencer vetting and performance tracking, found that 64% of all influencers with more than 1 million followers were defrauded through these fake software services.
In an unpublished reported, titled “State of Instagram Fraud in India”, HypeAuditor said that influencers use software tools and hire social media marketing (SMM) panels because they are promised real followers and organic activity on their account. There are various tools vailable to content creators online, some of which boost the users’ profile and followers called ‘follower growth’, or ‘comment pods’ which increases the number of comments on a post to spike engagement. Some of these tools also offer influencers to “refill” their follower count, in case they lose their account or network size.
According to the report, these content-engagement tools are mostly bots pretending to be real comments and real followers.”They (bots) are later deleted by Instagram, or the SMM Panel gives them the command to unsubscribe from the current account and subscribe to another account,” it said.
Indians have turned to social media platforms to either amplify their SOS messages seeking help in the last few months as the second wave of the pandemic creeped across the country.
MediaNama reported that some Instagram influencers were being paid to amplify messages for a plasma portal run by the Indian Influencer Network (IIN), a platform of 15,000 influencers spanning across over 65 cities. And in turn, they would also amplify SOS requests for blood plasma from their followers or the wider online community. The IIN would charge startups and brands a few, which would flow to the influencer network and NGO partners.
India slightly below world average
On aggregate, 38.85% of influencers in India are impacted by fraud, the report said. This is less than the world average which is 55%, but still a very high number, it added. HypeAuditor analysed over 132,000 Instagram accounts with more than 1,000 followers using a machine-learning model that analysed more than 53 patterns to detect suspicious content-engagement tools.
Source: State of Instagram Fraud in India report
HypeAuditor found that 64% of accounts with more 1 million followers, that bought these services, were defrauded by these fradulent software providers. On the other hand, 63% of accounts with 100,000 to 1 million followers were defrauded. The report added that the number of influencers using content-engagement tools was higher in the 100,000 to 1 million bucket compared to the influencers with more than 1 million followers.
The cost of services can range from $25 (Rs 1,818) to $50 (Rs 3,600) for 1,000 real subscribers. “An influencer fooled by the promise of these services to bring real people, not bots, makes a purchase. Then the growth service takes $ 25 for 1000 subscribers from the influencer and buys 1000 bots in the SMM Panel for $3 (Rs 200), which it sends to the influencer’s account,” the report said.
Majority of influencers have inauthentic comments
HypeAuditor said that mega-influencers with over 1 million followers are most likely to have inauthentic comments on their account. “60.97% of this type of influencers in India have inauthentic comments,” the report said. It added that 29% of Indian influencers have more posts where more than 30% of the comments are inauthentic.
Take for instance, a tool called “comments pods” which create a micro-community for engagement on a post. These bots ‘like’ and comment on Instagram posts of the influecer to boose audience engagement and numbers. Even though this helps boost the account’s engagement rate, the comments are not from an engaged audience and does not show the level of interest from real users in the content shared by the influencers, the report said.
“Some influencers may deliberately buy comments on services, realising or not realszing that comments are not coming from real people, others can take part in Comment Pods or host Give Away,” the report said.
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