I love social media, but there’s been a dirty little secret for years that “influencers” can buy not only followers but comments to make it look like they’re popular. In his new book, Trey Ratcliff dives deep into how it works and much more.
About eight years ago, I met with a Hollywood agent. He said that for companies to consider hiring you, you needed to have at least 50,000 followers. 50,000 followers! Back then I had about 20,000 on Twitter and was slowly growing, but at a rate that wasn’t fast enough for the agent. Since I wasn’t going to buy followers, I decided not to sign with him or anyone, and as a result I lost out on a lot of jobs.
The craziest part about follower-buying is that many executives and PR reps know that the influencers they hire have fake followers—and they don’t care. As long as their bosses are happy, they’re happy, and their bosses are just looking at the numbers. As a result, trying to build a brand authentically is tough. I know I messed up a little with my Instagram. I used to run contests on JohnnyJet.com and give contestants an extra entry if they followed me on Instagram, which has messed up my engagement rate. But it boosted my numbers.
Which brings me back to this week’s book: In “Under the Influence: How to Fake Your Way into Getting Rich on Instagram,” world-renowned photographer Trey Ratcliff (here’s his Instagram), who runs the top travel photography blog StuckinCustoms.com, exposes the cunning tricks social media influencers use to buy their way into the lucrative, multi-billion dollar world of social media brand sponsorship, world travel and free merchandise.
I know it’s not travel-related per se, but many consumers rely on “influencers” for accurate travel information. The book shows you what the Instagram black market is really like and what—and sometimes even who—to look out for. Since Trey knows I didn’t fake my way to being an influencer (by the way, I don’t like the term “influencer” since I really consider myself a publisher but it’s the current buzzword so I’m using it) he interviewed me for the book. I didn’t want to sell anyone out so I didn’t name names but I did tell him some of the tricks people use.
Here’s the description from Amazon: “Go on a deep dive into the social media black market and explore its harmful psychological effects with Trey Ratcliff, a social media insider who has accrued over 5 million followers (the honest way). Take a trip through the behind-the-scenes economics of social media, learn how to spot fake accounts, and discover how it’s possible to stay zen on the Internet – without needing to unplug completely.”
Grab it: Grab “Under the Influence: How to Fake Your Way into Getting Rich on Instagram” by Trey Ratcliff on Amazon for $16.19.