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How to spot fake Instagram accounts

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Influencer Marketing has become wildly popular over the past few years. Mainly  because it helps companies reach their audiences in a more authentic way. And guess who else is on the rise! Yep, it’s Instagram!

Being highly visual and growing steadily (over 1 Billion active users monthly) it has become vital for most marketers. As the app is one of the 3 most popular social media platforms in the world, you might also consider it for you campaigns.

In this article I’m going to talk about the so called dark side of Influencer Marketing on Instagram: the Fake Followers phenomenon and the most effective methods to spot fake engagement on Instagram accounts.

If you want to learn what types of influencers are out there and what are the advantages of using them, read this article on 6 types of influencers and why they are important for your brand.

Being so popular nowadays, of course there are people who want to take advantage and exploit Instagram for the money. Shocking, I know. But unethical practices in the industry are not new. The whole conversation around this subject started when Keith Weed (CMO Unilever) said the company will make efforts to not work with influencers who used bots to buy followers or who have fake engagement. He believes working with these people is like rewarding them for having fake engagement.

A trust problem has developed in the past year, with the rise of bulk buying of fake followers. The follower count and the engagement rate are among the first metrics brands use when deciding to work with an influencer. And the Fake Followers phenomenon is even more problematic if you think that Instagram is used not only for reach, but also to build credibility.

Sometimes, the tools used to gain fake influencers are subtle But here are some easy steps to detect fake engagement on Instagram influencers accounts!

  • Little content, many followers

This is one of the easiest methods to spot fake Instagram accounts. If you see sudden dramatic fan base increase at an influencer you follow, the followers have probably been bought. When the account is authentic, the fan base growth is stable and consistent.


  • High following-to-follow ratio

Genuine influencers follow only 1 to 5% of their followers. It’s just simple math, really! If you see a potential influencer having thousands of followers and following thousands of people, they probably don’t have any influence. ”Follow to follow” (there’s even a hashtag for it: #f2f) is a strategy applied by many of following someone expecting to be followed back.


  • Short generic comments

Here are two things to consider. Firstly, if you see an influencer comments on random people’s posts with the same messages, he is using a bot. You can use bots to target different people based on interests, location, hashtags used etc. and serve them a list of predefined 10 comments. Most of these comments are generic, to fit any type of content targeted: emojis, stuff like ”that’s a great photo”, ”where was that taken?”, „how did you come up with the idea for this post?”

Secondly, fake influencers’ engagement is composed by short generic comments, mostly emojis. Fake influencers are also targeted by bots (or use them to create fake engagement on their accounts). They don’t have influence, they didn’t previously create a relationship with their community, so the audience replies to anything with generic remarks.


  • They act like a gang

Not all fake influencers use bots. Some of them chat in Instagram groups and are part of common networks. Meaning they comment to every post each other uploads.

These are all simple tactics to use if you want to check whether the influencer you want to associate your brand with is genuine. Research is extremely important when choosing influencers for a campaign or a brand. In the long term, it’s best to firstly make sure his followers were obtained organically when choosing an influencer.


  • Their audience is odd

Regardless of how many they are, their followers may look odd. Go scroll through their followers! If 2 out of 10 don’t have profile picture or are accounts with under 50 followers and no posts uploaded, they’re probably fake.

While influencer marketing offers opportunities for growth, it has developed a trust problem. With the rise of fake accounts and bulk buying of fake followers, it is harder for brands to spot a real influencer from a fake influencer now, but not impossible.

Keep in mind that using the wrong influencer puts a brand’s reputation on the line!


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