#FridayFive: Five Ways to Spot Someone With Fake Followers

Friday Five

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about fake followers and Instagram ‘fraud’. At the time, there had been a lot of talk about Influencers buying followers as well as comments and likes. Influencer authority used to be based on follower numbers alone, but now Influencer Marketers also look at engagement rates; the number of comments and likes on posts.

The problem with Influencers having a fake following is that they don’t really have any influence. Who would they be influencing? Fake bots? It’s difficult for Influencer Marketing teams to sit and really deep dive into an Influencer’s social media accounts to work out whether they have fake followers as their relationship with the Influencer is usually based on trust and transparency. A new tool was introduced from Social Blade called Like-Wise that is used to vet Influencers for any traces of fake followers or engagement.

During my year working in Influencer Marketing, there were times when I could spot an ‘Influencer’ had either bought followers or engagement. Even now, I can still see it. The issue I have is that some of these ‘Influencers’ have collaborated with brands and probably made a lot of money from the partnership. I feel bad for the PR/Influencer Marketing team that won’t get the results that they expect and definitely won’t get the return on investment. But I guess the ‘Influencer’ can just blame this on the Instagram algorithm.

Fake followers seems to be a growing trend in the Influencer world, and with bots being so cheap, it seems like an easy way for the Influencer to look more ‘influential’. Thanks to the new Like-Wise scanning tool (that discovered 1 in 4 of the biggest UK Influencers had bought a percentage of their followers) we can hopefully see which Influencers have the real influence.

Here are five ways that you can spot someone with a potential fake following/bought engagement at a quick glance:

1. They use the follow/unfollow method

Have you ever received a random follow from someone who has 10,000 or more followers yet follows very few accounts? Do you wonder why this person has followed you? Do you feel a little boost of self-esteem and follow them back in appreciation? Fast forward 48 hours and I bet that person no longer follows you. But do you check? No. And guess who has gained a follower? Not you. And so the cycle repeats.

Some bots are even programmed to repeat follow accounts until the follow-back is returned. It’s shady business and all about the ratio but unfortunately, it does seem to work quite well.

2. Little to no engagement on posts

I know everyone complains about the Instagram algorithm and that no one sees their posts anymore (I’ve noticed this too) but if you have 100,000 followers and can’t reach over 100 likes on a photo and the only comment is your own hashtags… Isn’t that a little suspicious?

Engagement rate is the average number of engagements per post – [(likes + comments) divided by number of posts] divided by number of followers. If engagement rates are below 1% then it is quite likely that followers have been bought.

3. Boosted likes in first ten minutes

Wow, 5,000 likes in under five minutes?? 20,000 likes in ten minutes?? Check out that engagement rate! Two hours later… 21,000 likes. Hmm… Two days later… 22,000 likes. Hmmmmm… 

I know some Influencers have admitted to being skeptical about other Influencers’ following and have sat and refreshed one of their posts to see how quickly the likes come in. And they’ve witnessed an Influencer receive 5,000 likes in less than one minute which is rather odd. Unless they were Kim Kardashian, then that would be expected. But was that person named? No. We’re still too afraid to name and shame the Influencers making a mockery of the industry.

4. Bot comments

‘Wow girl!’ ‘Love this!’ ‘Nice’ ‘Great content’ – even I receive comments like this on my photos. Random bots can comment on posts to boost engagement rates and this can happen to anyone, whether you have paid for it or not. It is a bot after all. However, one or two I can pass off as oddities, but hundreds of the same comment?? Can’t you see that it’s so obvious??

Bot comments are always quite generic statements like the above, or mainly consist of emojis. I have even seen comments before that have said ‘great fashion style’ when the image was of a breakfast setting. This is why the bot comments are usually very general so as to not give it away too easily. When looking at engagement and in particular, comments; it’s always best to look at the quality of the comments. You’ll quickly be able to suss out which are generated from bots and which are from actual engaged followers.

5. Spike in follower numbers

There are various online platforms that can be used to monitor an Influencer’s social media growth. Social Blade is a free online tool that can be used to suss out spikes in follower numbers. If there are very large spikes of gaining over 1,000 in one day and then back down to gaining around 10 per day until the next spike of 1,000 then you can tell straight away.

Legitimate Influencers grow their social following organically, through useful and engaging content and by offering a service or something of interest. This is how all Influencers should be evolving on social media, but for some, it seems they are not prepared to wait that long.

This is a small plea to fellow bloggers and Instagrammers out there: please don’t buy followers or engagement. You’re only lying to yourself and the people you are working with. Plus I’m sure with all of these new tools being released, you’ll get caught out eventually. If not with my easy steps above *wink*. Just be true to yo self.


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