How To Spot A Fake Influencer

Lexa Aguirre for Scotch & Soda by Michelle Watt

If you’re on Instagram, you have probably heard of the term “influencer.” Through creative content (#ad #sponsored) and storytelling, these Instagrammers are paid to promote brands’ products all while gaining and influencing followers. Influencer marketing, also known as user-generated content, is a sure-fire strategy for brands and small businesses to gain exposure, clientele, and money.

However, as technology advances and users learn the ins and outs of Instagram, there are more and more frauds popping up. Why is this bad for your brand? Business is a two-way thing, and you shouldn’t get suckered into paying a random person or gift them free products just to get nothing in return. If you’re a brand or a small business, you should start to question the validity of an influencer.

How do you look out for fake influencers? Don’t worry, we’re here to help you find the frauds.

How To Spot A Fake Influencer

Check out their engagement.

Engagement is the #1, tell-tale sign if someone is a fraud or not.

Fake influencers are really just people who know their way around the Instagram system and use apps and strategies to boost their followers and likes (and yes, some people pay for it). If you want to figure out if someone is a fake influencer, focus on the numbers.

Make note of their follower count. Seriously–go through their follower list and see if they’re real people or bots. You can tell if an account is a bot if they have less than 100 followers, less than 100 posts, and most likely, no profile picture. It’s way too noticeable when someone buys themselves fake followers.

Notice the like-to-follower ratio. To be fair, Instagram’s algorithm isn’t what it once was. Even if someone has a lot of followers, they might not get the “right amount” of likes on a photo solely because of it not being on feeds. Even so, it’s good to notice the number of likes someone gets on a photo. For example, if they have 10k+ followers and only 100+ likes on a photo, that’s weird. They probably bought likes!

You can also read the comments on their photos. Do people comment on the photo with an emoji or a “follow me! I follow back”? Do they write actual sentences (opinions, compliments, whatever) that relate to the photo? Make note of what people are writing to them.

Related: Inside The World of Influencer Marketing

Find them on other platforms.

What happens if Instagram shuts down?

*cue blood-curdling screams* 

A true Influencer knows the importance of their influence, and so they would most likely be active on other social media platforms. Do a little bit of digging and see if they are active and engaging on other platforms. For example, do they have a YouTube Channel, a Twitter account, or a Pinterest page? If they’re only on Instagram and have a large following (10k+), then something’s up.

Related: Are Influencers Losing Their Influence?

Question their authenticity.

Most “influencers” are millennials, and millennials are known for being selfish and quite self-absorbed. It’s a selfie culture.

You’ll have to question their character and authenticity. Along with reading the numbers and digging to see if they’re active anywhere else, simply look at what they post. Who are they? Do they care about things that matter? Do they follow any brands or companies that are helping humanity? Are their captions inspiring or motivating?

If an “influencer” reaches out to you or you stumble upon one yourself, question their authenticity. Fake influencers are just in it for the money, the followers, free products, and the “clout.” It’s the “Hey, look at all the followers I have! I’m popular. I’m Instagram famous.” kind of aura they’re giving off. You don’t want to be a part of that. Whether if it’s fashion, food, health, love, relationships, lifestyle–you want an influencer who actually influences people. You want a good person doing and saying good things for the benefit of others.

As a brand or a small company, it’s important that you’re aware of fake influencers. You should only be doing business (like user-generated content) with authentic people who use social media as a tool and a marketing strategy, not as a game that they can manipulate.

What happens if Instagram disappears? What will the (fake) influencers do then? If they’re a fraud, they’ll fall apart.

If you want your business to thrive, make sure you do some digging on the people you reach out to and who reach out to you. Don’t let yourself get fooled.