DANGER! Fake Influencers and Followers

How to avoid the top danger of influencer marketing

With the recent experiment by Mediakix, it has once again further strengthened our fear of fake-ness for influencer marketing on platforms such as Instagram. To summarize, Mediakix created two bogus Instagram influencer accounts, one using photos from a one day shot and another simply using stock images. By purchasing fake followers and engagement to boost these accounts, these influencers have rose to “fame” and even secured four paid brand deals!

Fake influencer profiles, fake followers, fake engagement – 4 brand endorsement deals


With influencers earning up to thousands of dollars for each sponsored post they create for brands, marketing managers are all worried about the authenticity of these profiles and if the marketing budget has been invested wisely. On Instagram alone, an estimated 8% of accounts are fake spam bots (Business Insider).

“Is this influencer real? Is she what she seem to be? Are her followers real or are they bots? What about all her likes and comments which i’m paying for (cost-per-engagement)?” Some common questions that marketers have that not many seem to have the answer for. Here today, we are going to explore the top challenge of influencer marketing and share our thoughts on some ways to avoid falling into the same trap.

Social media and influencer marketing


Social media usage shows no sign of dropping as the number of users have recently cross the three-billion mark, about 40% of the world’s population is on social media (We Are Social, Hootsuite). Some of the top performing social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and YouTube and these mediums have given rise to a new category of marketing efforts – influencer marketing.

With the growth of these platform, the number of content creators (influencers, key opinion leaders etc) increase. Social media provides more room for creativity, creating interesting and engaging platforms for both users and brands. As brands begin to invest more in social media marketing, it is time to tackle the key challenge of influencer marketing.

Overcoming fake profiles and statistics

In our previous article, we shared in depth insights on how to identify fake followers and precautions brands can take. 

Basically, there are a few key ways available to identify a fake Instagram account. Of course, brands can manually go through the list of followers of their desired influencer to monitor the quality of her followers but that is nearly physically impossible and a probably a waste of resources. What brands can do is to make use of software available in the market such as Popular Chip’s proprietary Influencer Search Engine and Analytics platform.



1. Sudden Growth Spurt or Decline of Followers (from influencer)

Diving deeper and to understand each influencer, brands can look at the followers growth rate of these profiles. An authentic influencer with organic followers will usually have a more steady and gradual upwards growth.

Examples of accounts selling followers on Instagram

However, with websites selling fake followers at rates such as $8 for 1,000 followers, anyone can now gain thousands after thousands of followers in just one day with a small budget. Hence, brands can spot any sudden growth spurt to an influencers’ followers growth which would indicate a high possibility of purchased followers/bots.

Statistics from Popular Chips

On the other hand, accounts who has sudden decline or even gradual decrease in followers could also be a sign of Instagram constantly removal of his base of fake followers.

Note: It is possible for some influencers to gain fame and increase following in a short period of time after some viral postings or appearance in a high profile channel/shows and there would appear to be growth spurts as well. However, genuine account followers growth would still be relatively stable over long period of times and this criteria should be taken into account with the other factors listed below.

2. Uneven Followers Demographic Spread (from influencer)

For some accounts that purchases fake followers, these fake profiles could come from a specific regions outside of their base country. Although it is not a determining factor to identify fake followers, the demographic spread of an influencer is a good indicator of the quality of his/her following base.

Statistics from Popular Chips

Take for example in this case, the above image shows the followers demographic breakdown of a Singapore influencer. It is clear that the bulk of his following comes from countries far beyond his home country – from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In ideal situation for an authentic influencer, the top location of their followers origin should be their home or regional countries where their posts should have the maximum reach.

While this is a good warning sign for potential fake followers, it is also the perfect information for brands to distinguish between real local influencers that is suitable for a local marketing efforts.

3. Low Engagement Rate (from influencers)

Engagement rate is a measurement of likes and/or comments compared to the size of an influencers’ follower base. In general, influencers should be able to create content (images or videos) that attracts and interest his/her followers, engaging them in liking or creating a conversation on the posts.

In that case, accounts with extremely low engagement rates could possibly mean that 1) the influencer is unable to create content that suits his/her followers or 2) the follower size has been falsely boosted. For either of the reasons, brands should definitely think twice before engaging such influencers.

In addition, the quality of the comments are pretty clear when we compare two different accounts as shown above. For example, @calibeachgirl310 which is a fake influencer account only receives very generic comments. On the other hand, genuine followers who are engaged with an influencer will contribute comments that reflect personal thoughts and preferences.

4. High Following to Followers Rate

Take for example, an account following 5000 or more IG account but is not being followed by any – this is the first sign to note. This is applicable to every follower account of an influencer and could prove to be difficult to track manually given the immense following of these influencers.

These accounts are usually not owned by real human but operated by bots. One example of such software is Instagress, which has been closed down. These bots identify keywords that you will like to target and gives likes or comments for 24 hours everyday. In turn, this will increase your account’s exposure, likes and following.

Popular Chips

At Popular Chips, after a few years of working with brands as a marketing agency, they quickly realized fake influencers and followers as a huge problem in the influencer marketing industry. With that, they created the first influencer search engine and analytics platform with one of its key feature being the true recognition of inactive and fake followers.

Statistics from Popular Chips

Popular Chips’ software is able to monitor every public account on Instagram and determine the percentage of inactive followers (which is the sum of fake + inactive followers). This rate is developed by taking into account all the previously mentioned ways to identify fake accounts and by making use of mathematical algorithm.

With the increasing number of influencers/ content creator and brands investing in influencer marketing, the fear of influencers boosting their numbers to get higher remuneration for their social
media collaborations is real. However, many forms of technology are available to assist marketing mangers to make the right investment in influencer marketing and prevent them from falling for fake influencers/ the wrong influencer that will not perform.

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