Badshah's fake views controversy highlights influencer marketing inadequacies

Vanity metrics and bots are rampant in the digital ecosphere.

NEW DELHI: Bollywood rapper Badshah has come under scrutiny for allegedly buying fake views for one of his music videos. This has, once again, opened up the debate on the ‘fake followers’ strategy prevalent in the social media landscape and how celebrities and influencers are highly involved in this practice.

According to media reports, Badshah confessed that he had purchased around 7.2 crore views for Rs 72 lakh to set a world record for the most-viewed YouTube video in the first 24 hours. He had claimed that the music video for 'Pagal Hai' was watched 75 million times on the first day of its release, beating previous records set by Taylor Swift and the Korean boy band BTS. However, the claim was rejected by Google.

Monk Media Network assistant vice president Pranav Nair explains, “In this scenario, he's paid to get more numbers on his content and not a brand's. So, from a brand management perspective, one can accept the fact that he's investing money to grow his metrics on social media.”

The issue has come at a time when digital consumption spiked in the lockdown period and advertisers are spending a hefty amount on influencer marketing. As per reports, influencer marketing is seen as one of the fastest-growing categories in the Rs 21,000 crore digital advertising space.

Buying fake followers is the unpalatable side of the digital marketing industry and the way brands invest in followers for reach, reflects how deep the problem is. Brands that take decisions based on one post or just the number of followers will see reality when the ROI hits them.

Lets Influence founder Bhawna Sethi opines, “The major issue faced by brand managers is that it's not possible to dissect every single profile they are planning to collaborate with. Hence, big brands prefer hiring influencer marketing agencies as they have expertise in a specific service, industry, audience, channel, etc., and can help them avoid collaborating with such fake profiles.”

Nair advises that brands should not collaborate with such an influencer as it cuts the organic reach of the brand, which is one of the reasons why brands collaborate with influencers.

In recent times, many in-house tools have been launched to help identify fake followers, their percentage share and the impact of engagement. However, the rampant problem of vanity metrics, bots and others in the digital domain still lingers. A lot of celebrities have also been a part of it and measures are needed to control the growing menace.

Sethi says, “While working with celebrities, we realised that more than being a part of it, celebrities are victims of this. There are many instances when they engage with agencies for paid promotions and aren't even aware that the followers joining them are not real people. It won't be right to say that they bought fake followers with full awareness.”

Badshah has also been associated with brands like Pepsi, Yamaha, Hitachi, Mahindra and OPPO. This incident is likely to have an impact on his associations. It has also led to many people unfollowing his social media accounts.

MAD Influence founder and CEO Gautam Madhavan says, “It's very disheartening for the viewers to know first that their favourite celeb has bought fake followers and on the other hand, agencies like us won't also promote such celebs in suggesting to various brand campaigns. Thus, they lose the brand credibility and the money too.”

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