How to Identify FAKE Social Media Influencers

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Around 19% of marketers spend $1,000 to $10,000 on influencer marketing and 18% spend $100,000 – $500,000 every year. Also, there are around 7% of companies that spend around a whopping million dollars solely on influencer marketing. Due to such hefty investments, there’s an anticipation that influencer marketing will become a $5 – 10 billion dollar industry by 2020. 

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Such investments are agreeable since influencers can help a business grow by acting as conversion rate boosters and an impressive way to broaden its reach. However, with fake influencers penetrating the market, spending massive portions of your marketing budget on influencers can increase the probability of risk.

Big brands might recover from the loss in 2-3 months. However, when it comes to small businesses and startups, this risk can be fatal. Therefore, to save you from falling into such a trap or become victim to influencer fraud, I have prepared a list of ways that can help you identify fake influencers.

What are FAKE influencers?

Fake influencers are people portraying themselves as influencers by posting quality images. However, when you look at their followers and engagement, you’ll find that they are not followed by authentic accounts but bots instead. Influencers with a bought following hardly have any influence over the audience. 

While it requires years of hard work and patience to develop into an authentic influencer, becoming a fake influencer is a cakewalk. There are several tools that offer fake followers and engagement, like Buzzoid. You can use this tool and buy 5,000 followers for $79.

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You can purchase engagement, as well.

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So, that’s how easy and cheap it is to become an influencer overnight. Mediakix experimented the same as well and proved how one could build a fake influencer account with a tiny investment.

How do FAKE influencers affect your brand?

Not being able to identify fake influencers and getting into a paid partnership with them can be disastrous for your brand in two significant areas:

1. Brand Financials

Partnering with a fake influencer can drain your entire marketing budget and barely produce any ROI. For example, you partnered with a fake influencer whom you are paying $10,000 to boost brand awareness. The influencer will post about your brand, but it reaches only to the many purchased followers and bots, making your investment and efforts insignificant.

If this amount were spent elsewhere, the ROI (Return On Investment) would be satisfactory at least. Moreover, you’d be wasting your time coordinating with the influencers and discussing their promotion strategies. 

2. Brand Reputation

As you know, fake influencers don’t have a positive reputation online; they are not a voice that the audience is familiar with and trust. So, if your customers and target audience discover that you have partnered with fake influencers, then this can hurt your brand’s online reputation and credibility.

How to identify FAKE social media influencers?

Here are 10 ways to determine whether an influencer is authentic or fake:

1. Look for a blue-tick verification sign

Every social media platform, be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., offer influential people an option to verify their account. There are various conditions to get your account verified, and each account has to follow those guidelines if they want a blue-tick verification sign. 

The blue-tick is a sign of credibility, authenticity, and proof that its owner controls the account. So, if your influencer has a blue tick, that means there’s nothing to worry. However, not every social media platform provides the verification sign to influential personalities. For instance, Instagram allows blue-tick to celebrities and influencers with a massive following (who are considered celebrities as well), but not micro-influencers.

So, you can partner with an influencer who has a blue-tick next to their name. But if you find an influencer without a verification sign, you should refer to the other ways (mentioned in this post) to ensure that it is not a fake influencer.

2. How many posts and followers do they have?

This is a pretty quick and straightforward way of spotting fake influencers. When you visit their profile, look at their follower count and posts. You will find several accounts that have posted a single image but have 2000 followers, which proves that the profile has purchased the followers.

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3. Check the average engagement rate

There’s one drawback of buying followers: they won’t be engaging with your content. So, if influencers with a massive following of 10 Million receives only 30,000 likes and 1,000 comments on their post (on average), then that would mean they have purchased the followers.

Significant differences in the engagement and following is a prevalent outcome of purchased followers. Also, the fake influencers have to spend extra to get likes and comments on their posts. That’s why you’ll notice that the accounts engaging with the posts are different from its followers.

This is a lengthy process, but it can help you rule out the accounts promising false engagement. 

4. Is the engagement authentic?

People can buy fake engagement as well, so if you want to save yourself from influencer fraud, you must do more than just checking the average engagement rate. You must examine the quality and authenticity of the engagement.

You need to visit each influencer’s profile, open any random post, and check its comments. If you notice that one person has commented twice consecutively, like this:

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Or you come across, similar comments from different accounts, such as these:

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Also, if you find too many comments with emojis, then that means the influencer has paid for the engagement. Apart from this, you should exclude influencers who have a lot of plain comments like ‘nice picture’, ‘awesome’, etc. and also, strike off those who have irrelevant comments. For instance, the influencer is wearing jeans, and the comments are ‘amazing dress’, ‘gorgeous skirt’, etc.

It is necessary for the comments to be relevant and natural. Look at the comments on Jamie Oliver’s (popular food blogger) post.

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They are descriptive, natural, and relevant.

5. Monitor the follower count

You must choose those influencers who have a steady growth in terms of followers. A gradual increase in the follower count is considered more credible than sudden spikes. If you come across an influencer that has 20K followers and it increases to 30K or 35K overnight, then it is safe to assume that the influencer has purchased the followers during this period.

The virality of content can also be the reason behind such an abrupt increase in follower count. But it is a rare scenario, not every influencer’s content goes viral.

6. Explore each follower

It is the followers that develop a person into an influencer, and if they are not quality followers, it is evident that the influencer’s credibility will face a downfall.

You should explore each follower and check if they are authentic accounts or bots. It is easy to differentiate one from the other; you have to use the tool called IG Audit.

The IG Audit tool will analyze any Instagram username that you submit. It will read the follower data and provide you with an estimated percentage of the profile’s REAL followers.

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7. Are they active on other platforms?

Influencers do not limit themselves to just one social media platform. They build their presence and broaden their reach and popularity to other platforms as well. Finding an influencer who is consistent on one platform and hardly has any presence on other social media platforms, puts the influencer’s authenticity in question. He or She can be a fake influencer, so you must check the other ways (mentioned in this article) to determine whether the influencer is fake or not.

8. Check for videos and their views

Another way of checking whether an influencer has an authentic following or not, is through videos. You must check for videos posted by the influencer and their total views. If an influencer has 30K followers, but the views on the videos are only 3K (average), then that’s a red flag. You should choose another influencer, someone (with 30K followers) who receives around 25K views on an average.

9. Find out about their previous collaborations

Research is the most crucial part when it comes to finding authentic influencers and ruling out the fake ones. You must be aware of their previous collaborations -know about the brands they’ve collaborated with in the past. You can do so by going through their posts looking for #sponsored or Partnered With *Brand Name*. 

10. Examine the mentions and interactions

Influencers that are real and authentic get invited to events and get mentioned in other influencers’ stories and posts. They even collaborate with other influencers and interact with them via comments. So, to check the authenticity of influencers, you must examine their mentions and find out whether they interact with other influencers or not? Also, look for the events they have been invited to attend. If your influencer does not have any such presence, it is evident that he/she is fake.

Conclusion

Influencer marketing is a billion-dollar industry. Brands believe in using this form of marketing to boost their awareness, conversions, sales, and improve their online reputation amid the customers or audience. However, if you choose and team up with a FAKE influencer, they will bleed you dry. Therefore, to save you from becoming a victim to influencer fraud, I have listed these 10 ways to check whether your chosen influencer is fake or not.

If you have suggestions about more ways or tools that can help identify fake influencers, I’d like to know about all of them. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and I’ll be happy to extend this list.


This is a guest post by Sahil Kakkar. Sahil is the CEO and Founder of Rankwatch – a platform, which helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever-growing internet landscape. Sahil likes making creative products that can help in the automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter.

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