Who are Fake influencers And How Can You Spot them?
Finding that perfect influencer for your Instagram campaign is hard enough; weeding out fake influencers makes it even tougher. As if that's not enough, you need to ensure that your influencer has genuine engagement rates that can deliver conversions and increased brand awareness.
It's no surprise that over 70% of businesses report that finding the right influencer is the biggest
challenge in influencer marketing. With millions of influencers around the world to choose from, how can this be a problem?
As it turns out, not all influencers are what they claim to be.
The Problem of Fake Influencer Numbers
Everyone knows all too well that brands pay top dollar for influencers with the highest follower counts and engagement rates. Today, if you have a million Instagram followers, thousands of likes and great comments, then you are probably just one step closer to a million bucks.
So why not fake Insta-fame?
Paying for misleading statistics allows individuals to pose as influencers and earn similar rates as genuine influencers. Unfortunately, it is too easy to fake the numbers. Wannabe influencers are paying for thousands of fake followers, likes, and spammy comments to boost their engagement rates.
Bots usually generate fake follower and engagement numbers. These are computer programs designed to invade a social network, create accounts, and pose as humans by liking, commenting, or sharing posts.
How Fake Influencers Pad Their Numbers:
Buying likes and comments
Buying video views
Deleting underperforming posts
Using engagement groups or pods
Spammy use of hashtags
What Is the Impact of Influencer Fraud?
Fake influencers (or unpopular influencers inflating their numbers) defraud businesses of thousands of dollars in influencer fees every year. Furthermore, such spammy practices are a significant nuisance to other Instagram users.
The fact is, if you pay for inflated follower numbers and engagement rates, the expected conversions will not materialize. Even worse, your brand reputation might be damaged in the process.
To prevent this, many top brands, including Unilever, Diageo, L'Oréal and eBay are speaking out against fake influencers.
What Is Instagram Doing About It?
The pressure to crack down on fake influencers is mounting on social media platforms. Instagram, in particular, is trying to boost real engagement on its platform by cracking down on services that sell fake likes and followers.
Numerous services which use bots to automate generic comments and likes on Instagram have been shuttered. They include PeerBoost, Instagress, Fan Harvest, Mass Planner, and InstaPlus.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, has also expanded its Data Abuse Bounty Program, which encourages security researchers to identify apps that misuse users' private data. As a new incentive, security experts who report apps and services that sell fake likes, comments and followers will also receive a cash reward.
Other steps that social media platforms are taking include:
Banning photos with spammy hashtags from appearing in search
Hiring more employees to monitor misuse of the platform
Introducing a detailed "About This Account" which shows when the account was opened, the country of origin, username changes, and ads ran by it
New algorithms to detect spikes in follower numbers and engagement rates that are typical with bots
Increased support for third-party analytic and authenticator apps
Easier access to account verification for users with large follower numbers
While social media platforms and the influencer marketing industry work to fix these problems, what can you do to avoid the fake influencer trap?
How to Identify Fake Influencers
The problem of fake influencers has spawned many online sites that claim to detect fake
influencers, for a fee, of course!
Our advice is; be careful before paying for such services. Many of these sites do not disclose how their algorithms work, and therefore, their results cannot be independently verified.
However, tools such as SocialBlade, a leading statistics provider on Instagram, can be handy when analyzing influencer stats.
Additionally, there are many tell-tale signs of fake influencers that you can easily spot by scrutinizing their profiles.
Here are the top 5:
#1 Suspicious Spikes in Follower Numbers
Fake influencers boost their stats by paying a bot service or by abusing Instagram pods. The
result is a sudden and unnatural spike in follower numbers. Although a sudden spike may be due to viral content created by the influencer, this is usually very rare.
You can use tools such as SocialBlade and Creator Statistics Tool to check an influencer's growth trajectory. Sudden spikes will indicate artificial growth, which clearly shows that the influencer is faking the numbers.
In contrast, when follower growth is organic, the stats will show a steady increase as the influencer gradually becomes popular.
#2 Analyze Engagement Quality
It's one thing to get high follower numbers, but quite another to make them engage with you. Comment bots solve this problem by liking an influencer's posts and by also posting numerous comments.
If your influencer has many comments that appear unrelated to their posts, then they are most likely made by comment bots. Such comments usually emoji-only or contain many typos and grammatic errors. They are also very generic to fit every topic, e.g. "Great job" "Amazing" or "Funny post"!
Some influencers also use engagement pods. These are groups of people who engage with each other's posts to boost their engagement ratios. If your influencer receives comments and likes mostly from the same group of people, then they are likely part of an Instagram pod.
#3 Check Audience Quality
Although every account on Instagram is susceptible to bot followers, having more fake followers than real ones is a sure sign of phoney influence.
As mentioned earlier, fake influencers boost their follower numbers through bot accounts created by computer programs. These will appear unnatural in several ways. For example, they do not have profile photos and usually post pictures of pretty or scantily dressed women to attract views.
Secondly, Instagram accounts created by bots do not post often, and when they do, this activity occurs on a single day. Their content is neither exciting nor specific to any niche. Their bios and profiles are also either low-quality or empty.
Several tools, such as IG Audit, can also be used to check for bot accounts on Instagram. These tools will show what percentage of fake followers are in an influencer's account.
#4 Abnormal Engagement-to-Follower Ratio
A regular Instagram account has a like-to-follower ratio of between 1-3%. For example, an account with 100,000 followers should ideally have 2K to 3K likes.
Fake follower accounts typically have a dismal engagement rate. This is because fake followers cannot engage with their content. Anything less than 1% is a tell-tale sign of fake followers.
On the other hand, even genuine and highly engaged audiences typically never exceed an engagement rate of between 6-8%. Anything higher than this is a red flag. Only a bot service can deliver an abnormally high engagement rate.
#5 Hashtag Spam
Hashtags boost engagement rates by making content more discoverable by users. However, fake influencers will use dozens of trending but irrelevant hashtags in an attempt to increase follower numbers.
For example, a food blogger may use #hairstyle and #fashion in a post about a healthy recipe. These hashtags are easy to spot, even when hidden within the caption.
Some hashtags are entirely spammy; they are only used to get likes from people who are also trying to inflate their engagement numbers. Spammy hashtags include #instafollow and #followme.
Work with The Pros
Are you looking to boost your conversions and raise brand awareness through influencer marketing? Why not partner with real experts at the heart of the Instagram influencer market?
Finding the right influencer takes experience and a thorough knowledge of the influencer industry. That is why at Big Crowd Media, we work with top brands, influencers, and celebrities with positive global influence.
Any business can now benefit from world-class celebrity influencer campaigns at a fraction of the cost!
Do you want to know how our expertly curated, but low-cost, celebrity influencer campaigns can kickstart your business? Click here.