How to Spot Fake Instagram Influencers


Content Manager at Brand24. An avid reader and amateur baker. Passionate about mountains, travelling and jazz.

We’ve all heard fantastic stories about influencer marketing. How it generates new leads, creates buzz around a brand and increases your revenue and followers count. But influencer marketing has its dark sides. In the best case scenario, you can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if you trust the wrong influencer. The complete catastrophe scheme would include damaged brand reputation and lost clients. How to spot fake Instagram influencers and benefit from influencer marketing rather than regret undertaking this marketing action? Spotting fake Instagram influencers requires some amount of time and effort but, at the end of the day, it will save you a lot of trouble.

a person holding a mobile phone with open instagram account, laptop in the background

Can Faked Instagram Account Be Traced

The short answer is: yes, with some work and a little help from social media listening tools, you can spot the red herring. There are plenty of fake Instagram followers check tools, but nothing beats some old-fashioned snooping around on the internet.

This video shares 5 major signs of fake influence to keep an eye on when choosing influencers to work with — and you’ll find more techniques you can implement to protect your brand against influencer fraud inside the article.

What Are Fake Instagram Likes, Followers, and Comments

Let’s start with the basics. If you want to distinguish fake influencers from real ones, you need to know what to take into account in your analysis.

Building an organic reach and following is a time-consuming task. That’s why many take a shortcut and buy social interactions. There are dedicated websites where you can buy Instagram likes, followers and even comments for any Instagram profile.

a price plans for buying fake likes on Instagram

That way, at first glance, an account can seem completely legit. There’s a reasonable number of followers, likes and comments, and everything seems fine. But these are not real people on the other side of the screen, but bots. And creating a social media influencer strategy for bots won’t bring you any ROI.

Fake Followers Check on Instagram

How do you spot a fake Instagram influencer? That’s not as hard as it looks like! Just follow these steps and make sure you’re not getting ripped off. You should take into account:

  • engagement rate
  • the activity of the community
  • followers’ growth
  • previous cooperations
  • overall opinion on the Internet

Let’s dig in!

Take an in-depth look at the engagement rate

Followers number is just a vanity metric. The engagement rate is where the magic happens. Don’t get me wrong – the number of followers, likes and comments are an essential insight but only combined with the engagement rate.

According to Iconosquare, a media engagement rate on Instagram in 2017 was 2.7. Anything above this number is a good starting point.

You can evaluate the engagement rate in two ways. You can do it manually, by scrolling through influencers posts, checking the names of their followers, and reading the comments. One word comments and emojis are usually posted by bots. Also, profiles names that include a name and random numbers are usually fake Instagram profiles.

Or, you can save a lot of time with a social media listening tool, like Brand24, which will do the dreary job for you!

Start with creating a project. In the project creation wizard enter the keywords you’d like to monitor. Think about a brand name, a dedicated hashtag, or a term related to your industry.

project creation wizard in Brand24

The tool will gather all the mentions with your predefined keywords. Thanks to filters you can easily see only the results from Instagram.

The interesting data is in the Sources tab. Again, the filters are your true friend when it comes to spotting fake influencers.

First of all, choose the right domain, in our case it’s Instagram. Then you can filter the mentions by:

  • reach
  • voice share
  • estimated reach
  • influencer score.
a sources tab from Brand24 with a social media platform filter

Wondering what some of these metrics mean? For example, the share of voice is a number that indicates what part of a discussion was created by a specific author. This is a combination of some mentions that an author created in a specified period and an estimated social media reach of this content.

I looked for the mentions regarding Jamie Oliver, the cook. In the last three months, the author with the highest social media reach was This Morning, a morning tv show from the UK. Probably not a great choice for an influencer marketing campaign.

But the second result is the Vegan Community. Let’s take a look at their Instagram account. They’ve got a solid followers’ count, and their posts generate a decent amount of likes and comments.

a list of most active Instagram accounts using #jamieoliver on Instagram

Asses the community

Let’s take a closer look at the post. It has almost 23 000 likes and more than 350 comments. And the comments are not generic one-word mentions and emoji, but people are engaging in a discussion about veganism. That’s a good indicator that the Vegan Community has built a solid organic following on their profile.

one Instagram post with the number of interactions

It’s also good if the influencer is engaging in the discussion more than just with “thanks” or a smiley face. Building a community around your brand is a long-lasting process, and it can be tempting to skip some steps.

What’s most important is that the community is very active. Users are engaging with the content, and the Vegan Community is forging real conversations. Which means they care about the message delivered by the influencer.

Check out their followers’ growth

A sudden growth in followers’ count over one day does not necessarily indicate a fake influencer account. It also happens when a bigger account mentions the smaller one. After all, that’s how influencer marketing works.

But such spikes can also mean that someone went shopping and got a brand new batch of followers. Take a look at the followers’ growth for an extended period. Many unusual spikes are a red flag, and it’s a good idea to stay far away from such a pseudo-influencer.

The good news is that there are apps dedicated to checking out the followers’ growth. I can recommend these:

  1. Iconosquare
  2. Social Bakers
  3. Union Metrics

Followers’ number is important, but as I mentioned before, it’s just a vanity metric. It’s better to collaborate with an influencer who have 5 000 engaged users than to one with 500 000 bot accounts.

Survey previous cooperations

If you’re looking for happy cooperation (I mean, one with high ROI), you need to choose an influencer that aligns with your brand. Check out which brands they worked with before and how did it go. Instagram influencers should be able to share some basic statistics, such as the reach generated for the previous brand.

There are people on Instagram that will promote anything, from a fast food chain to fitness gear. Personal branding counts a lot on social media so you might want to choose an influencer with consistent branding. Real influencers will also select products that are relevant to their audience so that they can generate real engagement.

In many countries, influencers are required to tag sponsored content with #spon, #sponsored or #ad. You can’t look for a specific hashtag within one Instagram account in the app, but Brand24 has this functionality.

Log in to your project. In the Mentions you need to:

  1. Choose the right time range. I advise looking at least six months back
  2. Choose social media platform – in our case it’s Instagram
  3. Right beneath that, there’s a box where you can input your additional filters. It’s a Boolean search which means you can look for many hashtags simultaneously by using {AND}, exclude some of the results by adding {NOT} and look for posts that contain one of the predefined terms by using {OR}

Brand24 dashboard with mentions from Instagram regarding Jamie Oliver

Do some old-fashioned snooping on the internet

A lot of questions can be answered with some old-fashioned Google search – do penguins have knees; who would win a fight between Superman and Batman and whether an influencer is a fake or not.

a women sitting in front of a computer with a coffee cup on the side and Google main page open

If they have a loyal following on Instagram, they’ve probably built one on other social media channels as well. When it comes to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, you can recreate the steps you took for Instagram with Brand24.

Filters are your true friend when it comes to spotting fake influencers. This time, take a look at the sentiment analysis.

Sentiment analysis will tell how people feel about given influencer – whether the mentions are positive or negative. You will be able to assess the authority of the influencer outside Instagram.

Who Has Fake Instagram Followers

As it turns out from the New York Times investigation, fake Instagram followers are a widespread problem. Even well-known celebrities, actors and athletes at one point bought Instagram followers.

That’s why it’s so vital to choose who are you going to work with carefully. A well-executed influencer marketing campaign can do wonders for your business. It will bring your brand on the radar, generate new leads and increase conversion rates.

To protect your brand, you have to be able to spot fake influencers. The due diligence is the first step you have to undertake before entering the collaboration. Not getting ripped off by fake influencers is a solid starting point.

What do you think about influencer marketing and fake influencers? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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