Fake followers are a prevalent issue within the influencer marketing industry. Since the primary aim of influencer collaborations is to connect with potential customers, fraudulent influencers who have purchased their followers do not provide brands with any value. To avoid wasting your time and budget on unscrupulous creators, vet their followers using the methods we’ve listed in this article.
A recent study reveals that one out of four influencers has bought fake followers, and approximately 49% of influencers engage in follower fraud.
What Followers Are Considered Fake?
Fake followers are accounts within an influencer’s audience that don’t represent genuine users and are created solely to boost follower counts. Typically, influencers obtain fake followers by hiring service providers or agencies that promise to increase their followers or engagements.
Some characteristics of fake Instagram accounts include:
- Low-quality incomplete profiles with no profile pictures, bio information, and posts. They might also have generic usernames with random combinations of letters and numbers.
- A high follower-to-following ratio, as they tend to follow numerous users while having very few followers themselves.
- Irrelevant or nonsensical content, and spammy posts.
- Suspicious activity, such as liking hundreds of posts in a short time or following and unfollowing many users quickly.
Red Flags You Can Spot on Influencers’ Profiles
Just a glance at an influencer’s profile might be enough to suspect fake activity. Here are some signs to look for:
- A low engagement rate (less than 1%) – an influencer has numerous followers, but their posts receive very few likes and comments.
- Unusual engagement patterns – high engagement on certain posts and extremely low engagement on others.
- Irrelevant comments – generic, irrelevant, or nonsensical comments that don’t relate to the content. They typically seem automated or templated.
- Incorrect demographics – the followers’ profiles don’t match the influencer’s target audience, they are from other countries or speak other languages.
- Sudden follower spikes – a sudden, significant increase in follower count without any particular reason, such as a viral post or an initiative related to this influencer.
- Suspicious account engagement – a large number of fake accounts liking or commenting on influencer posts.
Note: Influencers may participate in engagement pods, where members artificially inflate each other’s engagement. Although this practice is not considered as having fake followers, it can still result in misleading engagement metrics.
How to Check for Fake Instagram Followers Automatically
Audience demographic reports can be generated in one minute using tools like Companion (first 14 days are free). This saves time that you could waste on a thorough analysis of every influencer profile and brings more accuracy to your conclusions.
The first metric to watch out for is Audience Authenticity. This score shows the percentage of real followers among the influencer’s audience. The tool defines fake followers by analysing profile pictures, bio descriptions, the number of posts, and the follower-to-following ratio. The higher this number, the better – choose influencers with at least 80% of authentic followers.
It is one of the most important and obvious metrics to check the quality of influencers’ audiences. Remember that the rate should be a minimum of 1% for you to consider working with the influencer. Even if there are no fake followers at all, a lower rate indicates that the content doesn’t appeal to this particular audience, and your campaign won’t be successful.
Note: Influencers know that low engagement rates can expose their audience’s authenticity. That’s why they’ve learned to buy a full package that includes fake likes and comments. To determine whether this is the case, check the quality of the comments on their latest posts. They must be genuine and related to the content, instead of generic random phrases. The same applies to users liking posts – determine whether they are real people or just fake accounts.
Engagements Spread for the Last Posts
This metric can also help to identify whether an influencer has consistently good activity on their posts or has gained stranded likes and comments. If so, this chart won’t be that smooth and will have extreme spikes and drops.
Follower Growth Over Time
The chart illustrates how abruptly an influencer gained their audience. Although such a sharp jump doesn’t necessarily mean the followers were bought, it does indicate that you need to examine this influencer more thoroughly and find the reasons for the increase. If there is no clear explanation for this sharp rise in interest in the influencer, there is a high probability that the audience wasn’t acquired genuinely.
The Best Time to Check Followers
We recommend ensuring that the influencer has an authentic audience before entering negotiations with them. Ideally, identify the criteria for the influencers you’d like to collaborate with, then shortlist the most suitable ones and check their audience right away. As a result, you’ll have a list of perfectly matched and verified influencers before embarking on the most time-consuming part: pitching your campaign.
Free Tool to Check for Fake Instagram Followers
To ensure you don’t miss any crucial signs of influencers with fake followers, we invite you to try Companion. You can use this tool for free for 14 days and then choose the pricing plan that best suits your needs. Fill out this form to get in touch with us!