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Research: More than half of Latvian influencers are scammers

Marija Vorkule
A. W. Olsen & Partners project manager

According to projections, the capital turnover in the field of influencer marketing in 2020 will be from 5 to 10 billion dollars. It is obvious that with this potential for profit, many people have a desire to develop their profiles faster than fair methods allow. What is the amount of fraud in Latvia in particular and in the Baltic States in general? A research by A.W. Olsen & Partners, a communications agency, and HypeAuditor, a service for Instagram and YouTube analytics, reveals that 53% of influencers in the Baltics demonstrate signs of fraud. In Latvia, the results are the same.

How do things stand in Latvia?In Latvia, the smallest number of scammers (44%) is observed in the category of nano-influencers, that is, those users of the Instagram social network whose number of followers does not exceed 5,000. The largest number of scammers is among those with 5,000 to 20,000 subscribers, namely 61%. “This may be due to a certain kind of “glass ceiling”: if you are not a media person, it becomes quite difficult to overcome the mark of 20,000 people and start making good money, so various fraud mechanics begin to be applied, for example, buying bots, reactions, participation in groups, where users actively comment on each other’s posts, as well as the method of mass following, i.e. subscription-unsubscribes”, Maria Vorkule, project manager at A.W. Olsen & Partners in the Baltic States and lecturer at the University of Latvia, explains. “Finally, among those with 20K to 100K subscribers, the share of scammers is slightly lower, but still exceeds about a half or 53%”.

Who is the worst scammer?It could be assumed that the smallest number of those who use dishonest methods will be found among Estonian influencers, but this turned out to be completely the other way: in the segment of up to 5,000 followers there were 45% of scammers, in the category from 5,000 to 20,000 – 65%, and in categories from 20,000 to 100,000 – 55%, i.e. in absolutely all categories there are more scammers among Estonian opinion leaders than among Latvian ones. “As for Lithuania, among nano-influencers there are most of all scammers – 50%, and among influencers from 20K to 100K – on the contrary, the least – 47%. But anyway, the minimum difference in percentage points should not distract us from the fact that a terrifying number of bloggers and celebrities are trying to cheat advertisers. This is another reason that the interest of companies to owners of a modest number of followers is growing by leaps and bounds: according to Getblogger.ru, over the past year, interest in them has grown by 48%, while the popularity of large bloggers is rapidly declining. Among millionaire bloggers, for example, the decline in advertisers’ interest was more than a third – as much as 35%,” M. Vorkule comments.

What is the most popular fraud technique?The most popular type of fraud is the purchase of followers – on average in the Baltics, among all types of influencers, 28% are noticed in this activity. Again, there are more scammers in the category from 5,000 to 20,000 subscribers: in Latvia, 38% of bloggers have some of the followers purchased, in Estonia – 38.5%, and in Lithuania – 33%. If we take a look at nano-influencers, among them there are also enough people who buy bots – in Latvia and Lithuania – 33%, in Estonia – 28%. Among those who have from 20,000 to 100,000 followers there are already 2 times fewer scammers: every fifth (18%) among Latvians, every sixth (16%) among Estonians and every tenth (10%) among Lithuanians.

Mass-following is a little less popular – 21% practice it. Most often, large influencers use it – among them, almost one in three (29%) does it. In this field, the Latvians became leaders – among our high-calibre influencers there are 32% of those. Nano-influencers most rarely resort to this method of increasing the number of subscribers (11% in the Baltics), but here the Latvians are leading, because every fifth (20%) nano-influencer does this. In both categories, Estonians are least likely to resort to this method of profile development. As for medium influencers, a total of 23% of them engage in mass followings, and Lithuanians (27%) are “champions” in this category.

Every sixth (17%) is engaged in the purchase of comments, and every sixteenth (6%) participate in mutual commenting groups.

“To summarize the above, I must say that the scale of fraud, as well as the influencer market itself, is terrifying. Many people believe that once they come to this sphere, buy-up and cheat to gain followers and the number of likes and comments, and in no time theorders from advertisers will literally pour out in great numbers. This is not true – and the growing popularity of completely “tiny” influencers is the most vivid proof of this. To develop in this area, you need to make a lot of work, and advertisers, and even ordinary people, before trusting any Instagram star should make sure that this is really a “star” and not just another scammer,” the communications expert adds.

“Influencer marketing is the TV of the future. You can convey any thought through a blogger, but if the blogger has a real and suitable audience only. The market is full of fraud and it’s quite easy to blow money for nothing. Marketers should pay more attention to checking bloggers, especially since there are reliable tools for this,” Alex Frolov, CEO of HypeAuditor, says.

The research of 5000 profiles of Baltic influencers was organized in September 2019. The analysis was carried out by HypeAuditor, the company for analysis of Instagram and YouTube blogger accounts, by an order of the A.W. Olsen & Partners communication agency.

Find the research here: https://failiem.lv/f/fv382s9g

About the HypeAuditor auditor company 

HypeAuditor is a tool to analyse Instagram and YouTube blogger accounts. Using machine learning methods, it analyses behavioural patterns and identifies fake followers and cheat likes and comments. HypeAuditor provides data on the actual engagement of subscribers, analyses the growth of the account, and shows demographic data for the audience of the blogger.