With more than 1 billion active users on its platform, Instagram is one of the most influential social media platforms in existence. Many businesses use Instagram influencers to help market their products and services. But how can you tell whether an Instagram celebrity is really as influential as they claim?
Research shows that 8% of Instagram accounts are fake and about 30% are inactive. With fake Instagram followers being particularly easy to create, your influencer may be inflating their numbers. Fortunately, you can get to the bottom of this by running a fake Instagram followers audit.
What Are Fake Followers on Instagram?
Fake followers on Instagram are not real people. They are often duplicate accounts that are made with fake email addresses and sold to Instagram users to exaggerate their number of followers.
Influencers of all sizes may use fake followers to increase the perceived popularity of their accounts. It’s important to investigate the fanbase of influencers you want to partner in while determining if their reach is authentic and right for your brand.
Signs of Fake Instagram Followers
Signs of fake Instagram followers include:
- Image issues – Many fake profiles will not have a profile image at all or will use stock photos.
- Spam Usernames – The username may be a weird combination of letters that does not spell out a name or real word. This is likely because it has been computer-generated.
- Limited posts and activity – Fake followers may not post very often because they primarily exist just to follower other accounts and inflate numbers. Even if posts do exist, they may contain little value. They may be irrelevant or spammy in nature.
- Empty or copied profile sections – People or bots putting together fake account profiles may not put much effort into it and may leave out profile information or copy it from one profile to another.
- High following, low follower rate – One of the most noticeable giveaways of fake accounts is that they are “following” many accounts but have relatively few followers. Generally, authentic accounts will have closer to a one-to-one ratio of these accounts while fake accounts have an average rate of 41:1.
- Unusual engagement rate – Real influencers will have engagement rates of about 2-3%. For example, if they have 100,000 followers, there should be about a combined 2,000 to 3,000 likes or comments per average post. Lower engagement rates may imply that fake accounts are at play, bots to simply raise the follower count, while higher engagement rates that exceed 10% could also indicate fake followings.
- Micro-influencers typically have higher engagement rates than large-scale celebrities on Instagram because of their niche areas of expertise and manageable followings, so assess each influencer on a case-by-case basis.
- Strange account activity – Fake follower accounts may have very limited account activity or only activity that corresponds with certain events. For example, they may have a lot of activity for a few days and then taper off
Steps to Analyze Suspect Accounts
If you notice any of the warning signs above, you may want to go a step further to determine if fake accounts are influencing your numbers and to discover the identity of a username owner. You can do this by:
- Assessing engagement rates – Little or no engagement can indicate that an influencer has purchased followers. You can compare the number of followers to the number of engaged responses to get a better idea about whether fake accounts may be at play.
- Analyzing comments – Look over the influencer’s comments for quality engagement. Generic comments like “good job” or “good photo” may indicate they were made by a non-human account. Look for comments that could easily apply to other profiles or pictures.
- Evaluating followers – Another way to determine if there may be a problem with fake accounts is to manually review their followers. You can do this by clicking on the number over “followers” and scrolling down. You may see many blank profiles or other signs of fake accounts.
How to Conduct an Instagram Followers’ Audit to Improve Your Performance
An Instagram followers’ audit helps detect if a particular Instagram account may have purchased fake followers from a black market site. You may be enticed to run an audit if you have recently noticed dwindling Instagram engagement rates or new marketing efforts don’t seem to make a difference. Conducting an Instagram followers’ audit can help you identify fake followers and get to know your real audience better.
This audit helps to identify accounts that are likely fake and possibly created by bots to inflate influencers’ real numbers. It can help you weed out those fake followers so that you can target your real audience.
There are a number of Instagram followers’ audit tools that you can use, such as Fake Follower Check from Modash or Instagram Audit Tool from Influencer Marketing Hub.
You can also conduct a manual audit by looking for the following signs of fake followers and analyzing suspect accounts.
Following the tips above can help you compare the potential value that you could receive from working with a particular influencer, as well as alert you to suspect accounts. Influencer discovery is a crucial step in social media marketing; it not only allows brands to identify which public figures align with the brand’s target audience and demographics, but is also a key point in weeding out scams like fake followers.