Real Brands Don’t Chase Fake Engagement

Jonathan Gardner

Brands worried whether their influencer marketing generates any value whatsoever are now invited to freak out over a bot network that generates fake engagement for Instagram accounts. This latest in a series of scams, trickery and corner-cutting measures highlights why ShareIQ educates marketers about potential influencer marketing pitfalls and how to ensure genuine ROI from social media marketing programs.

According to “Real People Are Turning Their Accounts Into Bots On Instagram -- And Cashing In,” by BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz, influencers (and even some brands) are using a paid service called Fuelgram to create counterfeit engagement with their content, while their accounts return the favor in a non-virtuous circle of ill-gotten likes. This round-robin system is not dissimilar in concept to scams like “comment pods” that have been kicking around the social media space for a while.

As Kantrowitz writes: “Fuelgram creates fake engagement from real Instagram accounts. And it's quite effective. Fuelgram makes posts appear more popular than they are, tricking Instagram's algorithm into spreading them further, sometimes right into the service's high-profile Explore tab. And there's a reasonable chance there's one in your feed right now, because Fuelgram is just one of a number of Instagram-juicing services available today, and the photo-sharing platform's engagement-rewarding algorithm incentivizes people to use it. Fuelgram’s most useful services are called Autorounds and Fuelgroups. Each time you post, hundreds of fellow Autoround participants like your post, and your account likes their posts back.”

As noted in the BuzzFeed investigation, it’s not just so-called influencers using the service, but also brands such as Walmart, Kroger and Aquaphor. Thought leaders like ShareIQ must work with marketers to understand why their earned media strategy requires creating fake engagement with their content. Perhaps a lack of clarity and depth of insight about genuine content engagement -- and an inability to connect marketing activities along the pathway from discovery to purchase -- has some brands chasing fictitious metrics.

Our customers want to understand the story behind their content engagement: who is engaging with it and what value it is creating. They want to take action on this activity and on the insight. In the end, all that should matter to a marketer is whether people engage with their content and if they do something real: make a purchase, download more info, etc. The creation of imaginary engagement can’t possibly be in the interest of -- or the ultimate goal for -- any brand.

At its core, our platform gives access to the insights, data and analytics that show a brand how audiences engage with visual content across social media and the web. Any brand that wants to get their content shared and engaged with needs to get sophisticated about how that content is seeded and shared by consumers who have influence and can help create genuine engagement and virality.

This year we launched a series of enhancements to the Influencer Tools in our platform. As the top tech site ZDNet reported, ShareIQ’s “comprehensive dashboard delivers insights” and “gives marketers a real-time view of what is being shared, where and by whom. Brands that want to get their content shared and engaged with will need to get sophisticated about how it is being shared by audience members who have influence and can create engagement and create viral content.”

It’s clear that brands face challenges from all directions, by working with us they can ensure they don’t also get ripped off by influencers and fake engagement.

Check out how a top CPG brand used ShareIQ insights to uncover new earned media value

Brands worried whether their influencer marketing generates any value whatsoever are now invited to freak out over a bot network that generates fake engagement for Instagram accounts
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.