Australian beauty YouTube sensation Chloe Morello has done her best to blow the lid on the ‘influencer’ industry, alleging many of those with substantial followings are committing fraud by buying their following rather than building their profile authentically.
Morello, who started her blogging career back in 2008 and started creating beauty content for YouTube in 2012, says she believes many of the ‘influencers’ she is surrounded by have been landing major contracts with makeup giants on the basis of fake followers.
“Instagram is a big business,” she says in her latest YouTube video. “So many people want to be part of this world.”
“The reason I am making this video is because I am seeing social media influencers on Instagram – and this is going to sound so dramatic, but keep in mind social media is a billion-dollar business where brands are paying influencers a lot of money – and I am seeing influencers come up and actually committing fraud by fraudulently acquiring followers, likes and comments.
“It’s definitely frustrating seeing people getting the same opportunities as me, going to the same events or even ones I didn’t get invited to… when I have done a lot of research and believe their following is fake.”
Out of context, Morello is right. The concept of fraud within the influencer and Instagram industry sounds dramatic, if a little first world.
But the point she desperately wants to portray is an important one: Whatever you think of Instagram and the kind of shallow narcissism it can appear to celebrate, it’s a big, booming business. Careers are made and lost in follower counts, and because the pace of the industry has grown exponentially, regulation hasn’t had the opportunity to keep up.
“Brands are paying top dollar, thousands of dollars, for posts with this people … but some of these people have no followers. And at the end of the day, the brands are investing their money in these people to sell product,” Morello explains.
The beauty blogging industry works simply: Brands will pay influencers thousands of dollars to create content around their product. The idea is that either the content generates sales directly, or creates publicity that generates sales in the long run.
Morello knows there will be a group of people watching her video or listening to her case wondering what the big deal is. She acknowledges as much in her latest video, but denies the basis of that argument.
“I think it does matter. Because a makeup brand will want to work with these people based on their following and their engagement.
“So, the brand is paying for nothing. The brand is paying for fake followers, fake likes and fake comments and that’s fraud.”
There are a few ways to make sense of different followings to ensure they’re authentic, she says.
Firstly, Morello says she believes many bloggers are buying followers to keep up with the pace of the industry. The way she knows this is by going onto a website called Social Blade, and typing in the username of an influencer she suspects of fraudulently acquiring followers.