INFLUENCER MARKETING FRAUD AND TOP PERFORMING SECTORS AND BRANDS REVEALED IN UK FIRST ‘INFLUENCER INDEX’

  • One in eight UK influencers bought fake followers in six month Instagram study
  • Smaller brands dominate top 10 ROI rankings
  • Micro influencers outperform bigger names
  • Fashion & Style sector attracts biggest marketing investment
  • Engagement rates fall off when brands get involved

January to June 2018 analysis of almost 700k influencer posts on current influencer marketing powerhouse platform Instagram, by independent benchmarking and measurement experts CampaignDeus.

The UK’s first comprehensive analysis of the so-called ‘Wild West’ influencer marketing industry reveals that 12 per cent of UK influencers show signs of having bought fake followers on Instagram in the last six months. UK-based influencers with a very low proportion of their audience based in the UK, unexplained leaps in follower counts and unusually low engagement rates helped influencer analysts CampaignDeus identify those who bought ‘bot’ followers.

The first CampaignDeus Influencer Index also reveals smaller brands are currently commanding a greater ROI potential amongst influencers than the more established names: only four established brands appear in the top 10 rankings for best engagement rates experienced by brand-sponsored influencers.

And small also packs a bigger punch when it comes to the size of the influencer. Despite recent reports that marketers spend up to £75,000 for a branded post from a ‘macro’ influencer compared to an average £1,500 for one from a ‘micro’ player, the Index reveals influencers with under 100k followers on average achieve a 60 per cent higher engagement rate for branded posts compared to those with 100K+ followers. The best performing are micro Fashion & Style influencers, with macro Fitness performing least well.

UK marketers are pumping more money into Fashion & Style influencers on Instagram than any other. One in three (34 per cent) of branded posts on Instagram are for brands in this sector – approximately one and a half times more than in Beauty, the next best performing sector (23 per cent of branded posts). The next largest are Food & Drink, with 16% of all Instagram branded posts in this sector. These three sectors make up 70% of the entire brand sponsored influencer market.

 Proportion of brand sponsored post in each sector

Proportion of brand sponsored post in each sector

Meanwhile, Fitness is the fastest growing sector for marketing spend: increasing by eight per cent on a month-by-month basis in terms of branded influencer posts.

However, despite this growth and the fact that 43 per cent of marketers plan to increase influencer marketing spending over the next year according to a recent US Association of National Advertisers study, engagement rates are lower on average by eleven per cent when marketers start sponsoring content compared to influencer organic content.

Nearly all sectors see a drop-off between branded and organic engagement rates, with the Parenting sector the only exception. Most extreme is Beauty, where brand sponsored content performs on average 27 per cent worse than influencer organic content.

Muhsen Syed, CEO of the report authors CampaignDeus, said: “Our Influencer Index also reveals the drop-off between branded and organic influencer posts increases as account sizes grow. The 17 per cent drop off for micro-influencers rises to 44 per cent if you’re working with a very large influencer with 1m+ followers. So marketers need to be aware that those larger influencers are likely to deliver almost 50 per cent less engagement than you might expect by looking at their past organic content.”

The Index also reveals posting features which boost engagement. Including a competition increases influencer engagement rate by 20 per cent compared to ordinary product promotion posts. Selfies and full shots of the influencer outperform product-only shots by 40 per cent. Including landscape or animals in a shot also helps increase engagement potential.

 Engagement rate by Post Type

Engagement rate by Post Type

Muhsen Syed commented: “We have launched this new, twice-yearly Influencer Index to bring some much needed clarity, transparency and guidance for the growing influencer marketing industry. The results finally shine some light on the scale of industry fraud and provide valuable insights for marketers looking to assess and optimise their growing investments. Whether it’s the size of the influencer or the size of the brand – small seems to be beautiful when it comes to return on investment. Smaller brands do well because they tend to focus on trying to unlock smaller but more engaged audiences around specific interest points.”

“To optimize their influencer marketing spend, brands need to stop fruitlessly searching for a magic Return on Investment number, which doesn’t accurately exist. The focus should be on building a systems-based approach to influencer marketing measurement, which places benchmarking at its core, so brands can easily compare their performance against their competitors and the broader market.  Only by doing independent comparison across and by sector will marketers fully understand how well their marketing buck is bouncing throughout this growing and important multi-million pound arena.”


CampaignDeus is the leading independent provider of influencer marketing campaign data for Instagram and YouTube. Our platform identifies and classifies brand sponsored influencer campaign performance metrics, tracking hundreds of thousands of posts.

We use this data to provide Brands & Agencies with industry insights across verticals, benchmark campaigns against vertical & competitor averages, and equip clients with in-depth reporting and recommendations on how to make campaigns more effective. Get in touch for more details.