How To 7: 8 Steps To Tell If An Influencer Has Fake Followers


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Protecting Your Brand From Instagram Deceivers

The power of Instagram influencer partnerships has been proven to impact brand sales.  A simple post featuring a product and a few carefully chosen words and hashtags can lead to thousands of sales overnight.   But choosing your Instagram influencer partner isn't as easy as just seeing who has the biggest fan base, as even on this platform fake followers can be bought!  

Sometimes it's easy to see that the follower base is comprised of fake accounts - but other times, a little more insight is needed to avoid partnering with fake Instagram influencer fan bases. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares 8 simple steps to help you find out if an influencer has fake Instagram followers, so you can get the most bang for your buck! 


Why Instagram Influencer Partnerships Are So Great

Instagram has more than 700 million users and has become one of the most engaging platforms of all social media networks. According to Augure's article on influencer engagement, 93% of marketers consider influencer engagement as an effective strategy to build brand awareness.

Nowadays, marketers realize the power of social media and connecting with influencers. Social influencers are considered modern day celebrities and sometimes reach more than 4 million people on one of their platforms alone.  In fact - they often have much bigger fan bases that follow them than 'real' celebrities.  Brands are realizing that this is a huge innovative opportunity for their company and we are seeing that brands are setting higher and higher budgets for influencer marketing every year.  

In fact, here are massive return on your investment with social media influencers.

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What's The Deal With Fake Followers? 

Just as much as your brand is looking for an influencer, an influencer is wanting as many brands as they can get to notice them for a couple of reasons.   Instagram accounts grow organically based on how much an influencer posts.  Brand partnerships can allow them to gain new followers from the brand's fans.  

And the other reason?  Well duh.  Money.  Influencers love the taste of making money from creating content and obviously want to make as much as they can doing so.  For some influencers, this IS their only job.  And they expect to make enough money to live quite well. Take a look at the blog we wrote about professional social media influencers: 5 Ways To Make Your Brand Stand Out To A Social Media Influencer

Which brings us back to the whole fake follower issue.  Brands choose influencers who look like they can get the brand the most eyeballs as possible. It's all about having (the appearance) of higher reach.   If an influencer doesn't have a large fan base, they get overlooked, often even if their content great.

So what's an Instagrammer to do?  Buy fake followers. Look big.  Reel in brand partnerships. We aren't saying everyone does this.  But it's not an uncommon practice.  

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Detecting Fake Followers

It’s important to keep tabs on potential influencers to ensure that your influencer is reaching actual people and not just spam-bots and fake accounts. What good are their numbers if they’re not reaching a good percentage of real users?

There are two simple steps a brand manager can do.

1. Look At Individual Followers

This can be a good way to detect if the influencer purchased followers. If fake, you will notice that their followers have very minimal activity on the page (no pictures, no posts, no followers).  Or they haven't been updated in years.  These are known as “dead accounts”.

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2. Check Their Engagement

Look at how much people are responding to the influencer's post.  Specifically, for low to no engagement. Take a look at their “likes” to “follows” ratio. You can look and see an account has a large number of followers, but a small amount of likes/comments. Chances are they have “dead accounts” following them.

3. Super Spammy Comments

Take a look at the comments by the followers on a post. Do they make absolutely no sense whatsoever to any language in the world? It's spam.

4. See If Any "Buying" Services Follow The Account

We didn't even think of this one, and have to credit SocialDraft.  How can you tell?  Under their bio they probably advertise that they sell fans.

5. Check Followers' Profile Sections 

Oftentimes, bot accounts don't bother filling out their profiles; they usually stick to a standard profile picture (if anything) and ignore all other aspects of the account. Sometimes, fake accounts will fill out the bare minimum on the account or will even simply copy and paste information from other accounts to seem legitimate. Beware! 

6. Keep An Eye Out For Follower Spikes 

For most people, follower counts grow naturally (albeit oftentimes quite slowly). With the exception of "overnight sensations" that make it big on social media via a (oftentimes reality) TV show appearance or viral video, most Instagram users do not gain hundreds or thousands of followers in hours.  Users who buy their followers usually gain a massive amount of followers in a very short amount of time, but their follower count often plateaus shortly after it. 

7. Look for Patterns

If you see an account consistently getting the same exact number of likes and comments on every post they create, that usually means they are purchasing their followers. Almost everyone on Instagram constantly has a varying amount of likes and comments on their posts; not every follower will see every post because of the algorithm, so not every follower will interact with every post!

8. Use a tool!

There are tools out there, like Instacheck which will look up and let you know how many fan accounts are fake.  We tested it, and know we haven't bought any followers, and had a few show up as fake. So whether or not it is absolutely accurate, or if some of our fans just haven't used their accounts in a while.


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Snazzy Infographic To Help You Out

Our team here at Hollywood Branded created the below infographic to help you check off the steps you need to take to make sure you don't partner with an Influencer who has bought fake followers to build up their follower count.  

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Stop.  Look Both Ways.  Then Proceed Cautiously.

Choose your influencers wisely. Be on the radar and up-to-date with up-and-coming influencers. Be sure to frequently scout new potential influencers you can see your company working with. If you’re in contact with their agents - ask them! Ask what their successes have been with working with other brands and the percentage of people who used their links, codes, etc...See what type of 'case studies' they have.  (It won't be like any you use..way more casual).  Chances are they will have at least a general idea of how they do.

Are you interested in learning more on how your brand can work with social media influencers? We have created a guide to social influencer that we think, quite frankly... rocks.  It gives tons of insight to help you better learn the things to do - and what to make sure you don't So check the free download out now!

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Want to listen to this blog post and others as a podcast? Check out our Marketing Mistakes podcast!

Interested in learning the ins and outs of making Influencer and Celebrity Marketing work? Access Our Full-Length Videos, Transcripts, Audio Files Infographics & More!! Hollywood Branded's Influencer Marketing School advances your influencer marketing game. These courses are for brand and agency marketers to provide insight into how influencer marketing strategies work, and the best practices and strategies to make them do so.

Hollywood Branded Influencer Marketing School

 Updated 12.19.2017