How to spot a fake Instagrammer

If there’s one marketing trend that continues to soar, it’s the use of digital influencers.

Industry players estimate influencer marketing will grow to a $5-10 billion market by 2020, while Forbes reports that an Instagram user with 100,000 followers can earn $5000 for a single sponsored post. Brands of all sizes are partnering with popular influencers on social media in an attempt to gain exposure and reach new audiences, with the ultimate goal of increasing sales.

Unfortunately, the growth of influencer marketing has also led to fraudulent behaviour. Impatient Instagrammers are buying fake followers and using bots in order to attract more sponsorship money. That’s leading to businesses wasting money and product on an Instagrammer with no real followers or influence.

If you are adding digital influencers to your marketing mix in 2018, here are some ways to check the quality of an account and avoid wasting money on a fraud.

1. Investigate their engagement rate

It’s tempting to take an Instagram user at face value and assume that a large number of followers equates to influence. However, the real value is in genuinely engaged followers or viewers as these are more likely to convert to sales.

There are several calculators available online to help you quickly work out an Instagram account’s engagement rate. However, to work it out yourself divide the average amount of total likes and comments for an influencer’s past 10 photos by their follower count and multiply this by 100. This will give you a percentage.

As a rough guide, Instagram accounts with fewer than 1000 followers generally have an engagement rate of eight per cent. For accounts with 10,000-100,000 the engagement rate drops to 2.4 per cent. Those with 1 million followers or more have an average engagement rate of 1.7 per cent.

An Instagram account with one million followers but only 500 likes per post is clearly suspicious.

2. Examine their followers

Unfortunately, sometimes simply examining an Instagrammer’s engagement rate isn’t enough. That’s because it’s also easy for an Instagram user to fake engagement by buying likes and comments. In fact, some companies sell Instagram likes for as little as $2! Generally, these likes are from fake accounts or bots that have been programmed to like and/or comment on an Instagram user’s posts, or posts using certain hashtags.

It’s fairly obvious to tell if someone is using fake followers or bots. Some red flags include a sudden spike in followers or followers with profiles set to private, with spammy-looking usernames. These fake profiles may have few followers of their own or may have only posted a few photos. You could also check where the influencer’s followers are based. For example, if they are based in Melbourne, but most of their followers are from South America, it could indicate fraud.

Sometimes a so-called influencer may have an unusually high engagement rate or only a handful of posts that have a suspiciously high number of likes or comments, seemingly all at the same time.

Bots are also easy to spot because they leave generic and sometimes inappropriate comments on an Instagram user’s account. Avoid Instagrammers who have spammy, emoji heavy comments as these are likely fakes.

Digital Influencers have been called the “new celebrities” but like all business relationships, it’s crucial to perform proper due diligence before engaging in a partnership.

Penny Smits, Principal Consultant, WordPlay Public Relations

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