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How Influencers Buy Fake Followers...And Why Brands Care

Posted by Stacy Jones on January 12, 2018 at 7:20 PM
Protecting Your Brand From Instagram Phonies

Our most popular blog has 6x more views than almost anything else our team has written. That's a lot of views.  The title is 5 Steps To Tell If An Influencer Has Fake Instagram Followers, and it's gotten such a high level of views due to the concerns held by so many brand marketers on not wanting to waste their marketing money. 

This whole world of influencer marketing is very 'wild wild west' right now.  Brands know they need to do it, but the actual landscape to partner with an influencer successfully is full of hurdles.In this blog, Hollywood Branded looks at how a sample Instagram fake follower purchase platform works, and gives you the insight of what to know and what to watch out for.


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Magic In A Bottle

Most brands are hoping for instant Instagram success.  That the power of an influencer will make their products jump off the shelves.  But the reality is - influencer marketing really works well as a brand awareness campaign for the majority of brands.  Mystical magical diet pills, herbal teas and overnight weight loss wonders do phenomenally well as sales drivers.  They can sell tens of thousands of products when partnered with the right fit influencer.

A post about a watch, a new water, an app, a styling product or a candy bar? Not quite to the same degree.  But still, influencers are an excellent tool for driving brand awareness.  And that really is how they should be looked at in any case.  But where the big fails come are when brands partner with influencers who have purchased their following, likes or views.  And it happens a lot.  There are so many software platforms out there now marketing themselves as a social influencer's solution to becoming popular (or appear popular).  All an influencer has to is simply put in a credit card, and moments later walk away knowing that their Instagram account is going to blow up - almost overnight.  And not due to the value of anything they have crafted.   


So What's Wrong With Fake Influencers?

And when an inexperienced brand manager sees that social media account, filled with followers, filled with likes, and filled with video views - they are going to think they struck the motherload of influencers, and possibly shell out lots of dollars.  But for what?  Nothing.  Empty air.  The post the influencer will do will LOOK like it's popular - after all, the band of fake followers is cheerfully being manipulated into liking and commenting at a specific number of posts per day on their site.  But it won't lead to any sort of brand awareness.  And sales figures certainly won't jump.

Which means money was just poured down the drain... or just into an influencer's hands who wasn't quite deserving to receive it.

Now - that influencer with the fake followers might actually be creating excellent content for your brand, and that is worthwhile.  In fact, we highly suggest working with micro influencers and smaller macro influencers to create awesome content that brands can then repurpose on their own sites.  There is a lot of value to that.

But having an influencer post a photo or video, and having fake people making it look like it's cool great content?  Not so great.

celebrity gift bag infographic

How Can You Tell They Are Fake?

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.  

To provide a little backstory to how you can tell if an influencer's followers are fake, be sure to check out our two articles on the topic:

In brief, the 10 ways to spot if an influencer has fake followers includes:

  1. Look At Individual Followers.  When were they last updated?  If it's been forever, they are dead accounts.  Everyone has real dead accounts, where people have drifted off naturally.  But high numbers mean fake followers.
  2. Check Their Engagement.  Except that new purchase platforms even can provide fake engagement!
  3. Super Spammy Comments.  If it seems like it's gibberish, it's a fake follower robot.
  4. See If Any "Buying" Services Follow The Account.  They are following to monitor.
  5. Use A Tool!  It checks if the followers are real or not simply by entering the handle.
  6. Super Fast Growth.  An account's likes jumping from small numbers to massive numbers overnight interaction. Unless Yahoo just published a story on the influencer it won't happen naturally.
  7. Thousands Of Followers But Little Interaction.  Some fake influencer platforms sell views now and likes.  Older versions only sold the follower username. They are getting savvier - but stay one step ahead of the game and be aware that this can be a major red flag.
  8. Non Active Followers.  Their followers don't post photos or have any followers of their own.
  9. Weird Usernames. Look for usernames with many underscores, numbers and periods.
  10. Reality Check. Remember a few fake followers doesn't mean the influencer bought them!

social influencer guide


So Why Does An Influencer WANT Fake Followers?

The bigger the influencer looks in terms of followers, means the bigger the brands who will consider them, and the bigger the potential income from paid deals.  So in short..

High Follower Counts + Views + Comments = More $$$

And sometimes the influencer is not really trying to deceive your brand... but is hoping that looking like they have higher views and follower counts will make real people actually think their stuff is so good, that they are missing out if they too don't sign up!  It works.  Celebrities have been doing it on their social accounts for years.

It's become a very common practice.


So What's Does A Fake Follower Platform Sell?

Let's take a look at how easy it is to buy fake followers.  This specific purchase platform sells fake followers for Instagram, Facebook AND Twitter.

Buying Followers

If you want to buy Instagram followers, all you have to do is choose the amount of followers.  On this platform you can buy 15,000 for just $160.  Just one brand partner willing to pay a rate of $12.50 CPM to reach those 15,000 would be paying $187 for that partnership... allowing the influencer to instantly recoup their expenses.  Oh - and you can get even BETTER influencers if you check the "real quality" box to get "high quality influencers with real features."  It also allows you to slooooowwwwlly have these influencers added, so no one sees an overnight jump screaming 'FAAAAAKKKKKKKKEEEEEEE.'

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Buying Followers

You can also buy Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter...) "Likes".  Just 30,000 likes are $150.  Imagine if you were a brand who saw your influencer post get SO MANY LIKES.  But then think how you'd feel if you realized they were all fake...

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Buying Comments

And then... you can buy REAL COMMENTS.  I haven't tested this, so I don't know how good they are - but one would think that if you buy the 150 comments for $65, that you might be getting some pretty lame comments by around comment 65 when they start giving up on what to write.  "Wow love it" only goes so far... 

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Buying Views

You can also buy views, and choose whether they are all on one photo, a specific photo or a few different ones.  Again, as a brand manager, you see your video got 30,000 views!!! How disheartening to find out that it was all paid for, for only $150.

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Buying Automatic Likes

In this case you choose how many photos or videos you want those likes to appear on, and the quantity range, which goes up to 1,200 likes.  And it's silly cheap - $5.60 for up to 160 likes.

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Buying Automatic Views

Same thing with Views... you can buy auto views where there are up to 1,200 views on 5 to 30 different videos, or spread out over the month, with a fee of $4.80 for up to 160 views.

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Getting A Package Deal

And for the influencer who wants to just do it all... there are even package deals!

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Infographic On 5 Steps To Catch Influencers With Fake Followers

Our team here at Hollywood Branded created the below infographic based off of our first article, 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 Left. Look Right.  Then Proceed Cautiously.

Want to know how you make sure you don't get fooled?  Read this blog: 5 Ways How To Spot Fake Instagram Followers PART 2!

Celebrity Social Media Webinar by Hollywood Branded


Need Some Help Getting Started On An Influencer Campaign?

Want to increase your own followers - the right way? Check out our post on 13 Ways To Create More Successful Instagram Posts.

To learn more about influencer marketing, check out these five blogs we've written that dive more deeply into how you can successfully create an influencer marketing campaign:

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.

The Only Guide You Need To Hire Social Influencers E-Book


 

Topics: Social Media Strategy, Social Influencers, Tips For Influencer Marketing