Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Travel Social Media Influencers


What are Travel Social Media Influencers? Back in the day, it used to be travel bloggers that were being sought after by agencies or clients who wanted to make an impact in the social media world but of lately, this new term of social media influencer was coined up by the online marketing industry which resulted in just about everyone claiming to be one.

In Malaysia, this is considered as a new thing and many bloggers out here are now changing their style to meet the new industry standards of this term. But in reality, it is something to really look into and I will share my points of view on travel social media influencers and how some people quickly move towards that genre and re-branding themselves. From lifestyle, food and fashion, a huge majority has taken to calling themselves as social media influencers.

With Instagram's incredible network of over 500 million engaged users, it is now one of the most sought after platforms for brand sponsorship opportunities and digital influencer partnerships from many local and international companies around the world and also here in Malaysia. This article sheds light in the world of Travel Social Media Influencers, especially in Malaysia and if you are a client or PR company, you should probably take note of this.

Travel Social Media Influencer

Travel social media influencers are people who are active on certain social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These people have a strong following and engagement on their profiles which are sought after by the clients or agencies where their influence is highly sought after due to the number of followers, likes and comments on their posts.

Well, I can easily say that I am a prominent Malaysia travel social media influencer since I have been active for the last 10 years promoting tourism and travel online, and before 2006, I was writing online blogs since early 2000. But here's the fun part.

The Reality - Well, since almost everyone in this social circle wants to be popular, be invited for events, launches, product reviews or even trips, many have resorted to using bad ethics to become social media influencers. A number of those who claim they are, in reality are actually not. Trust me, I know a number of them who clearly deny any wrong doing.

Here's Why - Simple, you can buy followers for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. So, just about anyone with money can completely change their numbers and be a potential influencer. Well, in most cases, this is what's happening to the current influencer generation.

Buying Instagram Followers - This has been around for quite some time and back about 3 years ago, the price of buying followers was really high. But nowadays, a simple check on Google by keying in 'Buy Instagram Followers' will show you very competitive offers, packages and deals for this. Cut a long story short, you can get 10,000 followers for USD 45.00 or even less. So if you wanted 100,000 followers, prepare to fork out USD 575.00 or less for that package. Different companies offer different packages too.

So, how did this go through without clients even knowing? Well, the sad truth is that even some agencies know about this and just keep hush hush with the client, giving the client their paid ROI for the social media influencer campaign. If you remember a couple of years ago, Instagram did a massive clean up of Fake Followers but the Instagram Farms got smarter and hired real people to operate their accounts.

Then, clients became smarter (Well, some of them did....) - By looking at the engagement of each influencer, clients and some agencies started to gauge the likes of each influencer for postings done on Instagram in order to be an influencer. Numbers were a big criteria back then, so if someone had 100,000 followers on Instagram, he or she was categorized as 'very influential'. But each time he or she posted a photo, only about a thousand likes were seen which was un-natural in many ways and looked fishy. For the smart clients, they would know of this, but sadly, many clients are till in the dark. All this because followers were easy and cheap to get, suddenly, people knew about this.
Buying Instagram views for your IG videos is also popular nowadays
But the Influencers became a little smarter -  Yes they did, simple because the competition was getting tough, some companies started to sell 'likes' and influencers could support certain photos posted by buying 500 to 5000 likes for each photo. However, those were only likes and trust me, the client or agency is not going to filter through each and every person that liked your photo so Influencers were riding high on paid likes.

And soon, engagement came along - With fake followers and fake likes, eventually, many could not be fooled therefore, people were looking at engagement ratios. Meaning, if someone had 100k followers and posted a photo, the clients or agencies wanted to see the likes and comments and this changed the game a little. However, the common misconception is that the engagement ratio is now set at 2% to 3% when it should be at least 5% to 10% for true engagement. Different regions have a different ratio standard too.
One of the dashboard planes of the Instagram Auto Likes website
Buying future likes for Instagram - This is currently the trend for many social media influencers where they are paying for automatic likes on their future postings. Also called 'Buying Automatic Likes', there are many companies selling this service. How creative is this? Meaning, you pay a company lets say, US$ 9 a week and you can have 250-300 likes for any photos you post that week.

This works well when you are on a campaign or traveling where instantly, all your future photos posted on Instagram will receive additional 250 or more likes. Personally, I know a number of Malaysian Instagrammers who are actually doing this for their trips or even campaigns. The problem is when you start doing this, it cannot stop as people are monitoring your posts. So it is an ongoing process. The worst part is when your purchases overlap and suddenly your photos get extra 250 or 300 likes for the next few photos or days, even though your photos are not popular or it is a sponsored posting.
You can also customize your IG Auto Likes package from the companies
Buy Targeted Likes - This is very popular among the more frequent Instagram users where you can specify how many likes per photo posted and so on. The site that sells this package also gives you an idea of how it works.
The new autolikes package feature is for people who would like to receive likes on future posts. You can specify account name followed by the amount of likes the account is to receive and then the amount of likes per post. The system automatically posts the amount of likes specified by you to each new post on the account till the amount of likes ordered is finished. You also have the option to stop or freeze the service at any time. The system will only check for new posts on the account that are uploaded after the order is made not old posts. Once the amount of likes specified is complete the system will mark the order as done. For example: user1 orders 10,000 likes for all future posts with a set amount of 500 per post then after the 20th post the system will mark the order complete as it would have delivered 500 likes to the accounts last 20 posts from time of order placement.
Buying Instagram Video Views - Another new service offered where you can buy Instagram video views to show everyone that your videos are super popular. This is part and parcel of the influencers objective when he or she goes on a trip or reviews a product for clients. For a cool US$10, you can get 1000 views or more for your Instagram videos posted.

Outcome - Clients want to see numbers, likes, engagement and do they really care? According to one source, a local agency knows what is going on, but with technology moving so fast, most of the clients do not have a clue therefore the agency was heard mentioning "Just give the clients what they wan, they are very happy with the numbers and the cute girls look good". Well, if this keeps going on, then the entire influencer society is a total waste of time and agencies can really make a lot of money with campaigns while there is no true engagement being achieved at all.
The cheap prices of buying Instagram likes nowadays
Checking for Fake Instagram Followers

There are a number of companies that offer free fake follower check for social media accounts where you can just key in the account name and let the system do its work. While this is still very new, the system may or may not work due to many people trying to use the system. However, if it is any consolation, you can go ahead and test it and see.
  • Follower Check for Instagram - http://www.followercheck.co/
  • Twitter Fake Follower Check - https://fakers.statuspeople.com/
  • Twitter Audit - https://www.twitteraudit.com/

I ran a check on one of the local social media influencers in Malaysia
There are some paid tools that agencies or larger companies use but in general, you should be alert of how to spot a user with a large number of fake followers or engagement. Until an official tool is released, we still need to identify those who manipulate the system for their own gains.

How to Determine if an Instagram Account Bought Followers or Likes

I came across an article that shed some light on this for those who are into this whole social media influencer thing. Simply said, if you really want to investigate a social media influencer, you can use the simple steps provided below as this is probably one of the best methods to determine is an influencer had bought followers or likes, however this could be time consuming when you want to check multiple accounts, but a spot check can easily tell you from the followers or comments of each individual.
These are all questions to ask yourself and look out for when spot checking:
  • Do the usernames have a bunch of numbers in them.
  • When you click on the username, does the account look spammy?
  • Does it have under 10 photos and little to no engagement on the photos.
  • Do the accounts look to be in a language that isn’t the same language as the account you’re verifying?
  • Do the accounts look to be a bunch of child owned accounts?
  • Are most of the accounts private accounts?
  • Do the accounts seem to match the niche of the account they are liking? Someone with a gardening account likely isn’t going to be liking photos on a car account.
  • These insights should help you determine if the account is buying likes or followers.
A Twitter Audit on one of the 'so called' travel bloggers in Malaysia
Social Media Audit

For now, there are a few companies doing audits or offering audit services for free or for a fee which checks individual social media accounts and this is one way of weeding out or highlighting all the fake Instagram followers for accounts. Twitter has had this for a while now where you can simply key in a twitter user name and see the amount of fake twitter accounts out there.

Twitter Audit (https://www.twitteraudit.com/) is one of the best in the market to spot the fake or bought followers. It is open and you can tell by just seeing the audit score.

How to check for Fake Instagram Followers or Likes? 

Again, I know companies are working on this program to catch the fake Instagram accounts, likes or even future likes, but to date, there is none except for Social Audit, a company that has a system to trace the fake followers of Instagram and other social platforms. On the other hand, I am sure Instagram knows of what is going on and will hopefully weed out the fake followers.

For those out there who are unsure, here are a few ways to tell if someone has fake followers.

  • If Instagram followers have no profile pictures or have no content, they are fake.
  • Instagram accounts with over 30,000k followers but each of their posts are getting maybe 100-200 likes only. 
  • An unusual increase in followers is most likely the result of a buying followers. Unless you are featured by Instagram for your unique work.
  • The truth is always floating on the surface and waiting to be discovered, so do not be easily fooled by Instagram accounts with over 50,000 followers. 

Risks of Buying Fake Instagram Followers

In life, everything is a risk and with social media, there are many too and the risks of buying fake followers or engagements are even higher than you think. Imagine getting your account banned for life after all that effort you put in, or like when Instagram did a massive clean up in December 2014, suddenly everyone can see what a fake you are. I read this interesting article about the risks of buying fake Instagram followers and it was very true.

Conclusion 

Good news is that a new research project developed at Carnegie Mellon University has set out to solve the fake user and engagement problem with an algorithm called FRAUDAR and it is based around graph mining, referring to a method for seeking out patterns in data. Professor Faloutsos and his team have also published the Fraudar algorithm online for free as open-source code so that companies can use it freely to stop the rise of fake engagement and followers. Information from Digital Trends.

I honestly hope that clients would read up more about how influencers operate rather than simply engaging just about anyone for the sake of doing it. There are genuine Travel Social Media Influencers in Malaysia and one needs to know how to identify them among the many who claim they are. With technology advancements nowadays, people will do just about anything to get something and thus, only when we are ignorant, things will get out of hand.

Author:

Malaysia Asia is a multiple award-winning travel blog site with information on unique and interesting places around Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and the World. Malaysia Asia is also under MyAsia Services, a Digital Travel Solutions Company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest. We are also not your regular travel bloggers. 

1 comments:

Allison said...

I totally agree with your point of view here! I just started using social media early this year to complement my blog (been blogging for fun for years as diary to record places that I'd travelled) and I am disappointed to see all the so-called influencers using fake followers or likes especially in Instagram! I love Instagram and it's sad that see the rampant fakers especially some of the so-called celebrity bloggers abuse it...