Blogging is nearly as old as the internet itself, but it was the arrival of social media that led millions to share their talents and passions with the world. Fast-forward a decade to 2018 and anyone can make it as a blogger or influencer, providing they can give value and entertainment to an engaged audience. Many have even made a career out of blogging.
However, algorithm changes, Instagram mafias and jealousy over those with bigger followings has led some to tarnish the brilliance of influencer marketing. Illegal, fraudulent and unethical practices such as faking engagement and buying followers – often by way of bot farms – are now more commonplace than ever. Now the glowing tint that surrounds the blogging and influencer world is turning a murky shade of grey, due to the actions of some.
But influencer fraud and the reputational damage it causes doesn’t just impact brands. Aside from costing marketers billions (it’s estimated the industry will spend $2.38bn on Instagram influencers alone next year), it limits the opportunities, aspirations and chances of those who play by the rules. And so we, Social Chain, have chosen to partner with the UK Blog Awards to protect bloggers and influencers who have the reach but not the voice. We’re taking a stand and we’re drawing the line at fraud, manipulation and faking it online…
On Monday 8 October, we launched Like-Wise: a sophisticated tool that uses artificial intelligence to detect and root out fake engagement and discrepancies in a user’s following. Since then the response from influencers, brands and the press has been overwhelming. Now, we’re pleased to share our proprietary software with the UK Blog Awards, which celebrates the Internet’s most talented creators, as part of an exclusive collaboration.
The UK Blog Awards, the largest ceremony of its kind with 27 categories for 2019, will use Like-Wise to vet all entrants for next year’s awards, ensuring that only ethical candidates are recognised and celebrated by an expert judging panel. Commenting on the news, Lauren Lovett, MD of the UK Blog Awards, said: “A UK blog award can’t be bought, nor is it a popularity contest, which is why our 2019 focus is on ‘the conscience of content’.
“The internet is becoming a dark place, and the blogging world shines rays of light all across it. It is heartbreaking for those individuals who miss out on recognition because of others’ fraudulent ways. Like-Wise can bring an even clearer transparency around bloggers and influencers and their social followings. Understanding who truly deserves recognition for the incredible content and work they create day in day out is something we have been looking for for a long time.”
Through Like-Wise, we have already detected that out of 10,000 well-known influencers (all of whom have worked and featured in campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world), over one in four have bought followers or faked engagement. The trend is as worrying as it is rampant, especially when you consider that an influencer or blogger can now buy thousands of fake engagements or followers for less than the cost of a WordPress domain.
It’s no wonder Social Chain Group CEO and Like-Wise founder Steven Bartlett has called it the biggest scam in marketing. “There are literally thousands of influencers who are making a full-time living out of creating the appearance of having a big audience, when in several cases 95% of their engagement is fake,” he told Campaign. “In real terms, you’re paying $1,000 to get 1,000 people to act, but really if I only get 50 people to act I’m stealing $950.”
Our proprietary software is the first major response from any agency, brand or individual since Unilever CMO Keith Weed [Dove, Magnum, Lynx, Toni&Guy] called for ‘urgent action’ on influencer fraud in June. However, with the launch of Like-Wise and our collaboration with the UK Blog Awards, which last year received 4,000 blog entries and 250,000 public votes, we know that only those who have invested painstaking months and even years nurturing their online presence and creating award-worthy content are given a platform to flourish.
Nowadays anyone can fake it – with or without the impact of reach-limiting updates from Instagram and other platforms – although soon that won’t be the case. Visit the Like-Wise website to register your interest. Alternatively, check out the UK Blog Awards 2019 website, where entries are now open, or follow the hashtag #UKBA19 for updates.