Real or fake? New findings reveal how Instagram influencers in Singapore forge popularity

If you’ve ever had doubts about the authenticity of Instagram influencers in Singapore, we now have new statistics to back that up.

US firm HypeAuditor has been tracking influencer behavior on Instagram and YouTube via an AI-powered tool since 2018, and it recently took a deep dive into the analytics of our country’s Instagram influencer accounts. The result? Many of them, it seems, have been pulling off various tactics to fake their popularity.

As of last month, there were nearly 2 million (1,972,000) Instagram users in Singapore, according to HypeAuditor’s press release on Sept 13, and the influencer marketing industry is projected to be worth up to US$10 billion by 2020. This market growth is mainly driven by the value of a sponsored Instagram post, which normally hinges on the Instagram account’s number of followers and post engagements, such as the average number of likes and comments.

Since it takes time to organically generate a following and build up an actual influential figure, it’s believed that impatient influencers tend to resort to buying likes and comments in bulk so they can grab more money from brands. This behavior has been termed influencer fraud by HypeAuditor, and it’s something a sizeable portion of influencers here are apparently guilty of.

Let’s take a dive into the world of influencers, shall we?

To start, there are multiple tiers of ’em, starting with the least popular ones, known as nano-influencers, who generally have 1,000 to 5,000 followers. They’re followed by micro-influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers, mid-tier influencers with 20,000 to 100,000 followers, macro-influencers with 100,000 to a million followers, and finally, mega-influencers and celebrities, who have more than a million followers.

Individuals in Singapore largely fall under the micro-influencer tier (58.2 percent), according to HypeAuditor’s statistics, and around half of those micro-influencers have been involved in fraud.

Since we have very few mega-influencers/celebs (0.06 percent) in Singapore, we’ll sidestep the statistics for frauds for that tier (56.25 percent) and concentrate on micro-influencers for the purpose of this article.

Table: HypeAuditor
Table: HypeAuditor

Micro-influencers are largely among those who buy followers (33.8 percent) and have fake comments (22.8 percent) coming from Instagram Bot spams as well. They’ve also bought comments and comment pods, which happens when influencers work together as a pact to help boost each others’ comment sections. According to HypeAuditor, these groups gather on online chat apps such as Facebook Messenger or Telegram to collaborate on such activities.

Saw that booming comment section on someone else’s account? Yeah, it just may be a sham.

However, comment pods are mainly popular among nano-influencers (10.8 percent) who have less than 20,000 followers, the firm said.

Image: HypeAuditor

Micro-influencers also make up the biggest proportion (15 percent) of those who gain new Instagram followers through the follow-unfollow tactic, which involves following other accounts and unfollowing them once they’ve followed the influencer back.

There are also tools and third-party apps out there that users have been using to automatically follow and unfollow accounts, according to HypeAuditor.

From the looks of it, a good percentage of accounts have grown more sophisticated when it comes to manipulating their popularities. But with Instagram rolling out efforts such as hiding the number likes, which it’s reportedly doing now, only time will tell what other tricks future influencer wannabes would have up their sleeves to skirt future measures.


Related stories:

Influencer who took brand’s products and money without uploading sponsored content gets exposed by business owner

‘Influencer’ collective SgInstaBabes launch questionable Patreon campaign for exclusive access to them

This article, Real or fake? New findings reveal how Instagram influencers in Singapore forge popularity, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!