Instagram over the past few years has become a “Hub for online businesses and internet influencers”. This is quite evident with the fact that over thousands of brands, businesses and Influencers from around the globe have taken to Instagram as a platform for marketing themselves and their products/services to their growing follower and subscriber base across the globe. Marketing on Instagram today is a lucrative field. But like anything that becomes profitable, it also is subject to produce fakes, frauds, imposters, and scammers.

Influencers influence people for the good! So naturally, you would not want to get under the influence of a fake one. Fake influencing has become a growing concern with the increasing number of fake accounts trying to impersonate an authentic account, often tricking potential customers and roping out money from them. Thousands across the world have fallen prey to these fraud accounts and as a result, hesitate in trusting even the genuine accounts. THIS adversely impacts your image and reputation as a brand/influencer, even if you are not involved in any of the scams!

So today’s post is a comprehensive guide to help you understand, and analyze and spot fake Instagram influencers in order to avoid any sort of social media discrepancies and trying to maintain as much clean image as possible.

**We truly believe that this post may really be beneficial for you, so we recommend you to read through carefully!

What/Who is a Fake Influencer?

Before getting into tackling fake influencers, let us first quickly understand what or who fake influencers are! A fake influencer is any person who tries to impersonate the social media presence of an already existent (Sometimes non-existent) internet influencer through the means of fake posts, comments, likes, and followers. In the context of Instagram, these fake accounts often download the pictures and videos from the original accounts, particularly public accounts and then post them on their fake accounts. These accounts often either use slight variations of the original’s username or have a completely different username. They may even use variations of the brand’s original logo.

What happens next?

What happens after this is that these accounts spam comment, like, share, post, etc. on various Instagram posts and through DMs about products with fake prices and delivery reports or services with fake claims and promises. Gradually these accounts start gaining more and more followers sometimes to the extent that they acquire more followers than real ones. The fake influencer may also have signed up for a service that creates thousands of fake accounts which are then used to engage with other accounts.

The crux of the matter is that these influencers with fake followers present themselves as real influencers even if they don’t have the audience, track record or marketing savvy to back it up. They may get sponsorship offers, but they’re not doing a good job in their role as an “Influencer”. They don’t have any actual influence over real humans, and therefore hiring them to promote your products will do nothing less than tarnishing your image and reputation.

Learn to spot the Fake!

It is actually a tough task to differentiate fake social media influencers from merely unsuccessful influencers who just aren’t worth it. However, we tried our best to craft a list of logical ways to identify influencers that will apply to both kinds. Either way, these signs point to the type of influencer you should not invest in. Sniffing out fake Instagram influencers can sometimes be easy or equally hard at the same time.

The most common way is when you find a profile with two posts and a million fans and it’s filled with Instagram fake followers. Other times, you have to consider the account as a whole and separate what looks real from what appears to be fake. So here the most useful and tactful ways to spot fake Instagram influencers with the help of which you can effectively differentiate between and identify fake and potential influencers.

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

1. Followers to Following Ratio

Genuine influencers typically follow 1 to 5 percent of their following. For example, if an influencer has around 1M followers then he would be following something around 400 accounts at max. If the ratio is much higher than that, it could be due to cheap growth hacks or the imposter just follows the tactic of “Follow for follow”, where they blindly follow any account they come across with an expectation they’ll be followed back. After that, they’ll unfollow a bunch of people all at once.

Let us give you a real example of an obviously-hacked followers-to-following ratio from the Instagram world and comparing it to its corresponding genuine influencer account of Indian teenage sensation Priya Prakash Varrier, who shot to fame in 2018 with the promotion and release of her debut film “Oru Adaar Love”.

In the screenshot you see below, it is clearly visible that not only is this fake account following far too many accounts, but the number of accounts it is following (2821) is actually higher than the number of followers it has (2540). Quite obviously it should be the opposite way around!

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

Now here is a screenshot of Priya Varrier’s real and verified Instagram account, clearly showing the massive followers-to-following ratio of less than one percent.

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

As you can see here, there is a ratio of 6.9M followers to only 97 following. That’s what it should be like! Priya’s followers are highly engaged with her day to day Instagram activities and posts, so the fact that she doesn’t follow more people doesn’t seem to affect engagement. Furthermore, if you carefully observe her story highlights section, she has clearly and neatly categorized her highlights into different categories like OOTD, Film, Lifelines, etc. Something a genuine influencer would always do!

2. Quality of Followers

If you skim through the follower list of a probably fake influencer account, you will find many of the followers have private accounts or no profile photos. If you spend just 15 minutes searching for “Symptoms” like these, I bet you’ll find at least 5-7 such accounts. Chances are that these fake and faceless followers on their list are from a paid service to boost engagement numbers. So influencers with fake followers will have a bot-heavy followers list. However, it is also important to keep in mind that even well-meaning influencers are going to get some Instagram fake followers and engagement!

3. Content to Followers Ratio

True and loyal audiences aren’t easy to acquire in the world of social media. They only come from regularly engaging a targeted audience with quality posts over time. So you should be clear about one thing that any impersonating account with few posts and a ton of followers is fake. This is a proven fact that real influencers have been posting on some sort of reliable schedule for the past several months or years in order to earn their followers. Even accounts of already-established celebrities or social media influencers who have just opened an Instagram account may have tons of followers.

4. Additional Websites and Verified Accounts

Influencers should also have some type of non-Instagram presence online, either through other social media accounts or a website. Search for them on Google, too. Their name should pop up somewhere, preferably in an article that ranks influencers or in an interview with them.

Instagram also has a built-in tool for verifying influencers. The “About This Account” feature is available on many accounts with large audiences.

On the Instagram mobile app (this won’t work on your browser), go to the person’s account page and hit the three dots in the upper right corner.

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

From the menu, pick “About This Account

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

Info will pop up to tell you when they joined, their most-used location, if they’ve changed their username and other accounts with a high number of the same followers.

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

 

5. Account Lifespan

Similar to content-to-followers ratio, analyzing the account lifespan is also a logical way to spot fake Instagram influencers. In an Instagram account lifespan, instead of looking at how much has been posted, we look at the total time the account has been open. If an account is brand new and has a huge follower base, that should be a warning sign!

It’s usually once in a blue moon that an influencer becomes a social media rage overnight. It is really that rare as most true influencers have taken the time and dedication required to build a large and loyal following. A skilled influencer will know how to reach their audience and grow their account over time. However, cases may vary and it can be possible that an influencer experiences an overnight spike in followers because of an Instagram feature, press coverage or a viral post. If that’s the case, we recommend you to brainstorm a bit to find out if this is the case. The lifespan of an Instagram can again be accurately checked out through the “About this account” information section as shown below.

6. Quality of comments

Generic comments are the comments like, “Love this!”, “Cool!”, “Nice!”  or “Epic!” which you see on most of the posts on Instagram. Most of these comments are often from bots, not real fans. So the question that arises here is how do you distinguish between real generic comments from the bot ones? The best way to figure it out is when the comment doesn’t accurately comment on the image. For example, a comment like “Delicious!” or “Yummy!” for a picture that’s not food. This does actually happen, and obviously because bots will drop in a comment on ANY post that comes up in their radar. Here’s what low-quality comments look like:

I wouldn’t claim that all of the generic comments are made by bots, some real people are going to leave lazy comments like “Nice!”, “Pretty!”, etc. but that shouldn’t be the only type of comments a post receives.

Bots will NEVER drop in quality comments. And when it comes to quality comments, the ones that are made by genuine influencers are personalized and more thorough. Most importantly, the influencer will only reply to a handful of them! Here’s an example of a post with a quality comment made by a real influencer.

Lauren Luyendyk, @laureneburnham on Instagram, has over 840k followers. She ensures quality engagement with each post she uploads and also drops in some genuine and thorough replies of selected outside posts. With quality engagement like this, you would expect to see about 10,000 to 25,000 likes and comments on most of her content. The post showed above has over 70,000 likes and a little over 500 comments. If you’ll personally explore this post, you will find that many of the comments are from people who have questions about her outfit, where the shelves in her laundry room are from and baby names (Obviously since she’s expecting!). This clearly means that they are from real people who are interested in what Lauren posts.

7. Past Collaborations and endorsements

Another way to spot fake Instagram influencers is to analyze their past collaborations and endorsements. A genuine influencer will always indulge in quality collaborations with other influencers, brands, businesses, and product endorsements. So to distinguish between a genuine influencer and a fake one, you will need to consider the following points in context to collaboration.

  • Look into who the influencer has collaborated with in the past.
  • Do they promote specific products or product types and work with a select number of brands?
  • Do they post anything and everything they’re paid to?
  • Do they endorse products even if they conflict with one another?
  • Are the endorsements audience-focused?

Yes, I totally agree that this may not be the only sign that you’re working with fake social media influencers, but it can definitely indicate the influencer you are working with is an unprofessional one. If you’ve noticed any of the signs mentioned right above, then we strongly recommend you not to move forward with the sponsorship deal.

Here’s what genuine and real influencers generally and WILL ALWAYS do:

  • Genuine influencers will always care about what they promote and the quality/reputation of the brand they are collaborating with.
  • Genuine influencers will know how the quality of their endorsements will impact their brand and their audience.
  • Genuine influencers would never risk upsetting their audience for the sake of another promotion deal.
  • Genuine influencers understand and respect that long-lasting trustworthiness has more value than another #ad campaign.

8. Hashtag Use

Hashtags are probably the most used features on Instagram. If “Logically” used, the basic function of a hashtag is to facilitate targetted searches about specific niches and categories on the internet. Using #SmartphonePhotography will fetch you all and ONLY the search results that have used this hashtag. That is why it is recommended to use the right and relevant hashtags to garner genuine likes and potential followers. The right and appropriate use of hashtags get you more attention, ensure higher outreach of your posts, and more chances to gain potential followers/customers.

Now, a well-established Instagram influencer with a loyal following and a well set social media presence doesn’t have to use hashtags in order to get attention. They may use just a couple of hashtags, especially branded ones. But they will NEVER use more than 3-4 hashtags for a single post. Using 20 or more hashtags is a sign that that’s how they’re collecting their engagement instead of through a dedicated follower base.

8 ways to spot fake Instagram influencers

This post from @filmfare featuring Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone got over 36,000+ likes and more than 200 comments. If you carefully notice, all of this is without a single hashtag.

Though Instagram does allow users to use a maximum of 30 hashtags in a single post, it still does not favor posts with a bunch of hashtags, either. Even if the influencer is legit, their over-use of hashtags can mean their posts won’t live up to their potential.

So these were some of the best and most logical ways to Spot fake Instagram influencers and accounts. There are definitely more ways of spotting the fakes, but these are the ones we recommend to you. Do feel free to share your insights and more ideas on the same. Also, do check out our previous posts to get the most out of your Instagram!