Online “bots” that create fake followers on social media platforms such as Instagram are costing brands more than $200m (£157m).
A study from New York marketing company Captiv8, reported in The Times, found that brands paid $2.1bn (£1.65bn) to influencers in 2017, but 11% of the reactions those posts generated were from fake or automated accounts.
So-called follower fraud allows users of sites such as Instagram to buy fake followers to enhance their credentials, and brands are being duped into spending money on “influencers” that have little real influence, and few real followers.
In December, Instagram deleted millions of fake accounts leading to drops in follower numbers for many high-profile celebrities. Kim Kardashian, for example, lost 1 million followers as a result of the cull.