It's been an interesting few days, after reporter Towe Boström revealed she was the mastermind behind a fake fitness Instagram account built through buying thousands of fake followers. She used the account to pass herself off as a legitimate influencer. Her hoax worked so well, she was able to score a brand deal through an influencer agency.
This story has gone viral in Sweden and ignited concerns about influencer marketing. We have already covered ways to check out an influencer but let's take a moment to pay special attention to spotting fake Instagram followers.
Here's what to look for:
- Low engagement rate. Account with fake followers have few comments and likes in comparison to their follow count. Having a lot of followers means nothing if they aren't actually liking and interacting with posts. An account with 200K followers but only 50 comments per picture has a ridiculously low engagement rate. That account is automatically not worth your time or money.
- Weird comments. The quality of comments matters too. Real followers leave comments with substance. If the comments say things like "nice" "cool" or are just a series of emojis those profiles are likely purchased followers.
- Clearly fake profiles. Actually click on names and see what their profiles look like. Fake follower accounts are usually missing profile pictures, posts, or both.
Here's a post from Towe's infamous fake influencer profile.
This account has nearly 22 thousand followers but only 24 comments on a recent post. That is the first major red flag that something is off with this profile. Most comments are one word, emojis, or completely nonsensical.
When we clicked on one of the names in the comment section...
...it became obvious this was a dummy account. Clicking on a few more names revealed the same result. While there were some real accounts mixed in, the vast majority were clear fakes.
The bottom line
If your brand chooses to either use an influencer marketing agency, or keep your influencer marketing in-house, a very important step in choosing the right influencer partner is to check influencer profiles manually. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really doesn't have to be. Putting in a little more effort in the vetting process could save your brand from wasting money on fake "influencers".