As a marketeer, influencer marketing is an easy way to increase brand awareness and trust. But influencer marketing can be risky, influencer fraud being a frequent problem. Collaborating with a fake influencer can be very damaging for your campaign or even your brand. If the general public doesn’t trust influencers, they won’t trust the brands that are being promoted. So next to finding the right influencer that fits your campaign, you also need to know if they're valid or not. Fake influencers don't have the real audience they claim to be having and they won't deliver the real results. If you want to avoid being a victim of influencer fraud you need to know how to spot them.
To recognise fake influencer it is nice to know what they exactly are. This helps you to recognise the characteristics that distinguish them from real influencers. Fake influencers are people who boost their following and likes by paying for them. They often post high-quality content causing them to look like real influencers. They may look interesting to many brands but their followers exist of fake accounts and bots and they don't actually have a meaningful influence over a real audience. Now you understand what fake influencers are and you know not to work with them, the next question is; how do I spot them?
The first thing you need to do is to look at the engagement rate of the influencer. Fake influencers often have a big amount of followers but their engagement rate is unusually low. Followers aren't going to engage with your content if they're bought. Does an influencer have thousands of followers but not too many likes? Then the followers are probably fake.
How to recognise the fake followers? Pay attention to the usernames and profiles of the followers. When you have doubts about the realness of an influencer you should check the profiles of their followers. Do you see a lot of profiles with uncommon names, without profile pictures or with none or very little followers? There's a big change these followers aren't real users.
The number of followers is an important KPI in the world of influencer marketing but is useless if the followers are bought. Followers and engagement can be bought which is not good for your online marketing campaign. Does the number of followers rise or drop very fast, in a short amount of time? Then the followers are probably fake. But suspicious fluctuations can be detected.
Tip: apps like Social Blade can help you with this. Social Blade is a free tool that lets you analyse the growth of someone’s social media accounts. Looking for other tools to help you with your social media marketing campaign or collaborations? Check out our marketing tools page!
Next to looking at the follower growth in a short period of time, another way to spot bought followers is by looking at the followers/following ratio. When the influencer follows much more people than he/she has followers this obviously is a red flag. Another doubt point is when the number of following and followers is almost the same. This often means people used a follow-for-follow app. An 'influencer' has for example 10,000 followers and 9,500 following.
Do not only look at the followers but also at the comments and likes. Do you see a lot of comments with only emoji's or just one or two words? Or the first comments are always from other influencers? The comments are probably paid for or a result of comment pods. Comment pods are groups of influencers that comment short messages on each other to beat the algorithm of Instagram and are trying to let Social Media think that their post is very popular. The accounts who participate in this are real but the comments aren't authentic, the comments won't mean anything to your marketing campaign or brand.
Some influencers use bots to place thousands of likes and comments on other peoples content to hopefully receive the same thing.
Ways to figure this out? Look at the amount of likes on every post, if the amount of likes is almost the same in every post this could mean they're bought. Also look at the video's. Video's have more likes than views? Do the math!
Still not sure if an influencer is real or not? Check out if they have other social media profiles or if you can find them anywhere at all on the internet. Most influencer do not have just one social media platform that they're active on. You can also simply just search their name or alias of the influencer who you doubt is real in Google and see if there are a lot or very little search results. If the influencer is real you will probably find multiple evidence of them being an influencer like regularly posting online activities or their attendance at events. Very little search results in Google means that the account is probably fake.
If you apply all the tips above it should be easy to pick out the fake followers and fake influencers. Perfect if you want to collaborate with an influencer for your marketing campaign. Because why would you spend your marketing budget on a useless fake influencer?