Ep. 3: Influencer Fraud

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 1.11.31 PM.png


Episode 3 of THE LifeStyled COMPANY podcast is all about Influencer Fraud. Kristen goes in depth about what it is and why it cost her company $15,000, how to look for it and how you can handle it in a way that's beneficial for both you and your business.

Tune in now to listen to the full story about LCo’s experience with Influencer Fraud. It’s a goodie - and we’re not just saying that!

Influencer Marketing

Social media marketing, and specifically influencer marketing, is a relatively new industry historically, and is growing everyday. Influencer marketing is essentially when a brand partners with an influencer to provide a product or service in exchange for social media promotion at an amount that monetarily matches the level of said product or service provided. There are different tiers of “influencer status,” we’ll call it - you have “Micro-Influencer” (<35,000 followers), “Mid-Level Influencer” (35,000 - 100,000 followers), and then you have the Kardashian’s of the world who are off the charts. As an influencer, whatever tier you fall into usually dictates your rate per post, Instagram story, etc.

There are pros and cons of working with each different tier, but it’s important for brands to not only look at who the influencer is as a person and their unique value proposition, but also at their engagement. If someone has 100,000 followers and a 2% engagement rate, that means that 2,000 of their followers are actually engaging on their posts (liking, commenting, saving). This might seem low, but by market standards it’s actually really high! The more followers you have, the lower your engagement rate will be because Instagram values accounts like that differently than say, your mom who has 200 followers. It’s also harder to engage from a percentage standpoint with more people in the pool.

Because of social media, businesses have the power to get right onto people’s phones without requiring them to pick up a magazine, read a newspaper, listen to the radio or open an email. All of these things now kind of seem archaic, but for so long before the age of social media, they were the only ways for brands to advertise to potential consumers. Now, it’s easy for a brand to partner with an influencer as a means of advertising.

It’s beneficial for brands and influencers to partner together when they have a like aesthetic because it’s likely that each entity’s audience/followers and their interests will also be similar. As a business, you’d be reaching a different but engaged audience that will likely respond well to your whatever it is you do or sell.

Influencer fraud

While there are a lot of quality partnerships, there are just as many that are not so great. When you Google “Influencer Fraud,” there are articles that come up, but no real definition which says two things: the climate of Influencer Fraud is changing everyday, and it’s a relatively new concept in the world of marketing and social media.

Kristen’s defines “Influencer Fraud” as this: When someone manipulates their engagement on a social platform that they use for influence, representing yourself as something that you’re not. When committing influencer fraud, the influencer changes and manipulates their engagement in a way so that the number of likes, comments, and saves boosts real numbers to make it seem like they’re getting way more attention and engagement than they actually are.

You may be thinking, “why is this such a big deal?” It has become a big deal, and will continue to be a big deal, especially in the last two years because influencer marketing, while new-ish, will be around a $10 BILLION industry by the end of 2019. TEN. BILLION WITH A CAPITAL “B.” It is where a huge percentage of companies put a ton of their marketing dollars and if those numbers are being manipulated, it’s really bad in a lot of ways, but most importantly from an ethics standpoint.

So now that you know what Influencer Fraud is by definition, let’s dive into what it is as a verb and what red flags to look for. Many influencers who engage in “fraudulent” activity are either buying followers, likes or comments, which are all run by “bots.” There are a few different types of bots:

  1. Bots completely generated on the computer. These bots are a type of algorithm that “hacks” (for lack of a better term) the Instagram system to “create” followers or likes, but really it’s totally fake and just a manipulation of numbers.

  2. There are also bots that are actually real, live human beings who run multiple accounts. These “bots” will toggle back and forth between their own fake accounts to like and comment on the Instagram users that pay them to do so. Some users even pay these people upwards of $2/like or comment. Yes, they’re getting engagement, but they paid for it and it’s totally inauthentic engagement.

Can you see why this is a HUGE problem for businesses? There are businesses out there throwing their marketing and advertising budget at people that they think have an influence in hopes of a boost in brand awareness and sales, just to be cheated out of that money. Again, not every influencer does this, but there are some out there that do. Be proactive and do your research if you’re going to be tapping into Influencer Marketing!

Do Your research

  1. Check the last 12 posts. Is the like to comment ratio consistent? Are there 3000 likes and 7 comments? That’s not normal. There is no way that if you got 3000 someone’s to double tap or hit the heart button, that only 7 of them are taking to step further to comment.

    If you want to take it a step further and calculate the influencer’s engagement rate on a specific post. Take the number of likes and comments on a particular post, divide that by their total following, then multiple by 100. This will give you their engagement rate as a percentage. If you can do this on at least the last 12 posts, that will give you a good understanding of where their engagement falls as a whole. It’s okay if it’s all over the place! There is no rhyme or reason to the Instagram algorithm.

  2. Audit THIER OWN engagement with their following. Are they responding? If they are, are they only responding to comments that aren’t spammy? What do the comments looks like when they do get comments?

  3. If you’re on the receiving end of influencer marketing, ask for a media kit (aka press kit, one sheet, etc). Their media kit should be 1-2 pages and lightly focus on numbers, but not be overrun with ratios, graphs, etc. You want to know their total following, their engagement rate, and possibly their average follower growth per week. Otherwise, the media kit should tell about the influencer, their interests, etc.


Ep. 2: Using Instagram for Business Successfully


In episode 2 of THE LifeStyled COMPANY Podcast, Kristen dives into using Instagram for business and using it successfully. There’s a lot that goes into an Instagram strategy which makes it complex enough. Throw in an ever changing algorithm and things really start to get interesting! With a little consistency and effort though, you can not only beat the algorithm, but WIN at Instagram altogether!

Tune in to learn more about how Instagram has aided in building LCo into the brand it is today, and how to use similar tactics to find success for yourself!

Kristen is a seasoned IG user both for personal and professional reasons. She dedicates this episode entirely to what works for her, so that you can gain some knowledge and inspiration to find what works for you.

Something that sticks out right off the bat is when she says, “Everyone can do it their own way. There is plenty of success to be had by all. Trust me, there are plenty followers out there.” According to Tailwind, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users as of June 2018. 1. BILLION. Of that, 121 million are in the United States and 32.6% of those users are between the ages of 25 and 34. These statistics are not only mind boggling, but they also illustrate the sheer volume of people you are working with on the platform.

For Kristen, her success on social media has a lot to do with timing. Her social journey began when Myspace (remember that one?!) was at its peak around age 19. She began working it into her daily life by default because it was easy - everyone was doing it! From there it evolved to Facebook and eventually now, Instagram!

Podcast Show Notes Graphics 2-02.png



If you want people to engage with you, you have to engage with people. Be genuine in your engagement, be consistent and most of all, don’t overthink and just be normal! Don’t play the comparison game. The whole getting totally sidetracked and consumed by what other people are doing prevents you from focusing and growing your own account. Think about what you would actually say if you were texting a friend. Emojis are cute and great, but the Instagram algorithm doesn’t communicate in emojis. Yes, the algorithm changes daily, but the algorithm, and quite frankly people in general, respond better to words! If you’re trying to grow your following and engagement, Kristen recommends liking and commenting on the first 10 accounts that pop up on your feed each time you open the Instagram app, no matter what they are (small biz accounts, long lost friends, doesn’t matter). Leave thoughtful, meaningful likes and comments, and you’ll find yourself starting to build social relationships - that’s really what it’s all about anyways! Plus, it’s really hard to not support people who support you. On another but related note, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is - Kristen will touch more on this during a future episode on influencer fraud.


If you decide you’re in it for business, make the switch over from a personal account to a business account to take advantage of the special features that come with that type of account. Once you decide, stick to it and really commit!


The insights that are on the business account (another reason to make the switch!) will help you to see what times of day your audience is most active, among other things. Another thing to think about is what industry you’re in and who your audience is. If you’re a food blogger and influencer, it might make sense to post around times when people get hungry (think lunch or dinner time). For Kristen as an influencer in the design space, the best time to post is in the early morning and in the late afternoon/evenings when people might be scrolling for inspiration. Do some research, pay attention to your engagement at different times of day and work posting times into your overall strategy.


Kristen personally has never planned her content ahead of time using a content planner, or planned multiple posts at once, because she always wants to make sure she’s incorporating things happening real time. While she feels like there are some people who have to have it all planned out, she pulls content from current projects, installs, travel and trips, her outfits, etc. for her daily posts. On really busy days, she will however plan content ahead for that day. This will consist of her post in the morning and evening, and will do some stories in the morning and let the day go from there. Kristen prides herself on answering every DM she receives on Instagram and will make time to do so during the evening after her girls go to bed. In a nutshell, it’s all about figuring out the strategy that works for YOU and managing your time accordingly.


What will inspire your audience to connect with your product or service? Figure out the value for your audience, tap into that to not only make sales, but build a genuine online presence and an actively engaged community. If you constantly shove products or services down people’s throats and every post is telling you to buy something, it’s likely your content won’t resonate well with your audience. Part of being social on social media is wanting to leave your audience with that “warm fuzzy feeling” when you post. Yes. You absolutely want to be selling on Instagram, but you may need to tweak your sales technique and package your content in a way that feels authentic to the people who will be on the receiving end. Think about that as your end goal with your content, and sales will come naturally.


Instagram is a visual platform based on a feed and a single photo + caption at a time. It’s also important to note that as a whole, Instagram is a very pretty place. If you don’t up your game when it comes to your visuals, how will you stand out and make any impact? Kristen mentions that luckily, the interior design industry is very aesthetically pleasing by default. While the design team will post before and after photos, if you pay attention you’ll notice that the before photos are never posted on the feed because it would throw off all of the curated and high level photography used. Not every image needs to be high res or professionally photographed, but there’s no reason to put out unedited content given the amount of resources we have readily available in the palms of our hands (ie; Lightroom, Lightroom presets, VSCO, etc). Kristen doesn’t use the same preset or filter for every type of photo. She’ll use one for photos of interior projects, another for travel, another for her girls, etc. Play around with the editing software that is most comfortable for you to use and make tweaks based on the needs of the photo. For example, lighting will be different based on your location - how will you need to add or take away exposure? You should also make sure the coloring of your photos all correspond well in your grid - don’t know what we’re talking about when we say “grid”? Click here to read and learn more. Don’t get lazy and put out half-assed content that’s not to the level you need to be sharing just because you feel like you need to post. In Kristen’s mind, she would rather just not post than put something out that’s not up to par. Don’t take two steps forward just to take 10 steps back. Try to be consistent and don’t be lazy.


Kristen read somewhere that hashtags don’t mean anything anymore and from her personal experience, that is totally false. Hashtags are still one of the best ways for you and your content to be discoverable on Instagram to new people. Best part? They’re FREE. Kristen has gotten partnerships, collaborations, new followers and regrams, all from using hashtags. Here’s what works for her:

  • Use 25-30 hashtags per post. She has about 10 blocks of hashtags that she’ll rotate based on the subject matter of her content. If you use the same hashtag block for every single post, it’s only going to show your post in the exact same place every time. Be more strategic than that so your post will be seen in more places.

  • Choose hashtags that have more than 25,000 posts, but less than 1,000,000. Hashtags are an indexing system and it will be easy for your content to become swallowed up if you use hashtags with upwards toward 1,000,000 posts.

  • Have you researched your hashtags? Actually click on them to see what the posts are that have also used that hashtag. Is it content that you want to be associated with?


Kristen responds to every direct message that she gets. She can’t always give the answers that people want, she still responds. Not only is this beneficial to you personally because it humanizes your brand, Instagram wants you to respond! Instagram looks for accounts that engage in conversation (“two-sided relationships”) when serving content to your followers. Genuinely try to respond with at least four words and punctuation, not just emojis.


Like with most things in life, content creation is a balance. It’s okay to regurgitate and repost (WITH proper credits!!) other people’s content, but not without also weaving in your own. Don’t let creating original content be daunting - it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be your own! Think about the purpose of your account. If the purpose of your account is solely sharing inspiration and other people’s content, great! If it’s not, you need to also be posting your own projects and creating your own stuff.


Make sure you’re YOU! Make sure you sound like you, look like you and are representative of your brand! “When people think of design, I want them to think of me. The same is true in my visual presence on Instagram. When people see my content, I want them to think of me and know it’s mine,” says Kristen. Before posting anything, ask yourself, “Is this me?”, “Is this my brand?” If you have to think about it for longer than 10 seconds, you probably shouldn’t be posting it. Be consistent. Be catchy. Be original.