With influencer marketing as the next big thing in digital marketing strategies, plenty of brands are scrambling to find quality influencers. As marketers comb through Instagram accounts for new influencers, there is danger lurking around every corner with fake accounts, fake likes, and fake engagement.
Fake influencers could be costing marketers up to $100 million each year! (Credit: Mediakix)
That’s a lot of money! No marketer can afford to waste their budget on influencers that won’t deliver. Before partnering, here are some ways to protect your brand from the fake Instagram influencers out there.
12 Warning Signs that an Instagram Account May Be Faking It
1- Not a verified account.
While most accounts on Instagram aren’t verified, this could be a very quick way to determine if someone is or isn’t who they say they are. If you are reaching out to a well-known celebrity or influencer with a really high follower count (1 million+), they should have a blue verification badge on their account. It shouldn’t automatically disqualify them, but it can be a very easy way to spot the fake Instagram influencer.
2- Profile pic doesn’t look real.
Run the profile image through a reverse image search. Many fake accounts will use a stolen image as their profile image, often of a person that already looks like an influencer. Downloading this image and searching for it on Google images can reveal who else is using this profile picture.
3- Not enough content, or content shared on the same day.
Fake accounts will add a few images to look real, but won’t have consistent posting.
4- Number of followers greatly exceeds the engagement.
This could be an indicator that the influencer paid for followers. The average influencer has 1-5% engagement on their posts. To find this, multiply number of followers by 0.03 and compare this number to the number of likes per post. If this number is drastically higher, then this influencer may have purchased fake followers. Fake followers won’t engage with posts, causing this disparity in engagement.
5- Sudden increases in followers or engagement.
6- Spammy or vague comments.
If the comments are all emojis or especially vague, like “cool pic!” or “Love this!”, then these comments may have been written by a bot.
7- Too many stock images.
If everything looks like it was taken by a professional photographer, or if the person in selfies looks different each time, this account may be using stock imagery. Use a reverse image search to see if these photos appear anywhere else on the internet.
8- The same Instagram profiles comment on every post.
This could indicate that the influencer is using “Instagram pods,” which interact with each post. This is not an authentic expression of interest for the influencer, since each member of the pod is obligated to participate.
9- Their followers don’t look real.
A quick scroll through an influencer’s followers should show real people with a wide variety of profile pics. If there are a lot of followers with no profile pic, or the same profile pic, this influencer may have purchased followers.
10- Views on videos are too low.
Video views accrue regardless of if a follower likes the post or not. This makes it a good indicator of how many followers are actually seeing the content that the influencer posts. Look for influencers with videos that show at least 3-10% of their audience as views.
11- The influencer doesn’t exist outside of Instagram.
Influencers who appear on multiple social media sites carry more clout as an influencer. If they are only Insta-famous, they probably don’t hold as much value as an influencer who has diversified their online presence. They also may have used deceptive tactics to gain their fame within the Instagram platform.
12- The influencer isn’t tagged in photos.
If an influencer has a thriving community of followers, they should be seen tagged in other people’s photos. Whether they are in the image or it is a follower trying to share something with the influencer, their tagged photos should be plentiful.
Did you know? Buying likes is actually considered a deceptive business practice by the FTC and could carry consequences for both the company and the influencer.
Warnings for Marketers
Even if an influencer seems 100% real and legit, here are some considerations before partnering with an influencer:
- Check comments for hashtag spam. Hashtag spam is a long list of hashtags, usually posted on the first comment of the post. This increases the post’s views, but also doesn’t always align the content to the person seeing it. Check to see if the influencer is abusing unrelated hashtags or listing an excessive amount in order to get more likes and views on their content.
- Check for steady follower growth. Steady growth in followers shows that an influencer is getting followers the old-fashioned way — with great content that they’re proud of. Programs like Social Blade or Hype Auditor track an influencer’s growth and this growth should be a steady curve upward, without any major spikes along the way.
- Remember, influencers can delete their posts. It is standard practice for influencers to delete sponsored posts after a set amount of time. Some even delete low-performing content. Surprising, right?! This keeps their feed looking successful and free of clutter or too many product promotions. In most cases, this will not have an adverse effect on the campaign because most of the engagement on an Instagram post occurs within the first week. However, you may want to be specific about this aspect when working out an influencer partnership.
- Always set clear expectations for partnerships. When working with an influencer, you should have expectations for both parties in writing. This can be within the context of a DM or email thread, or you can opt to use an actual contract, but it should be discussed and documented what the influencer and the brand plan for their partnership. This prevents any unexpected disagreements down the line.
How to Solve the Problem of Fake Instagram Influencers
Now that you can spot the fake Instagram influencer, the next question is — who has the time for all this research? No one!
So, what’s the real solution to fake Instagram influencers? The solution that ensures you work with real influencers every time is to use your existing data to find your influencers.
Carro is an all-in-one influencer software that can help you find influencers that already have a connection to your brand. These are real people who have purchased your product or subscribed to your emails or followed you on social media. These people have already taken the time to get to know your brand and better yet, they already love your product!
Forget reverse image searches and analyzing their content looking for stock images. The influencers that Carro finds are real people, every time. Of course, savvy marketers will still do their due diligence to work with the top talent, but Carro cuts the work in half! With Carro, you’ll be able to find quality influencers that can promote and advocate for your brand.