There are several “pay-for-follow” companies who farm hundreds of thousands of accounts each day. Each of these accounts has a name, profile picture, engagement and even a decent following.
You might wonder, “Why would anyone even want a fake account?”
In the age where popularity and credibility are often benchmarked against the number of followers, it’s no wonder why some people would resort to buy fake accounts and give an illusion of a large following.
Fake accounts, regardless if you follow them or they follow you, results in poor engagement and often ends up spamming your own followers. We all know it is important to routinely purge your account of all fake followers but how do we spot a fake?
1. Sudden Increase in Followers
Organic growth takes time. It requires patience and skill to share the right content with the right audience. This consistency will translate into organic growth over time.
Should an account suddenly receive a large number of followers in a short period of time there is a good chance it is a fake account.
As you can see, this account experienced a huge growth in the number of followers for the period of May to June. This growth is often propelled by bots and inactive profiles.
It should be no surprise that from July, despite the sudden growth, it began losing its followers. It not only lost all the followers it bought, it achieved a net decrease of 1166 followers despite investing in fake followers.
While true organic growth takes time, it is way more sustainable than growth propelled by fake followers.
2. Following to Follower Ratio
Fake accounts need to be farmed and during this time, they tend to follow a huge number of people to improve their credibility. As a rule of thumb, organic accounts usually have a follower to following ratio close to 1:1 while fake accounts on the other hand often have a ratio of 1:40. If you spot a profile that follows 4000 accounts but has only 10 followers, there is high chance it is a fake.
3. Low Engagement
If the high disparity in the number of followers and following is not enough to hint a fake account, you can always check its engagement. Unlike organic followers, bots and inactive accounts are unable to actively engage with content. Scroll past its previous posts and check the number of engagement each post received. This could be in the form of likes or comments. If an account has 100,000 followers but each post only received 5 likes, this low engagement is a good sign that the account is a fake.
4. Empty Profiles
Most aspiring influencers are well aware with the ‘The Network Effect’. It is the ‘chicken and egg’ phenomenon whereby a profile becomes more valuable as more people follow it but to get more people to follow it, it needs to first be valuable. To get ahead of this, some people enlist the help of bot accounts. These are accounts that are not only fake but also empty. Their sole purpose is to give an illusion of a following to encourage more organic. So, if you spot an account with maybe 5,000 followers but only 6 posts, stay clear! There is a good chance it is a bot.
5. Audit Your Account
The best way to ensure that an Instagram account is credible is to perform in-depth analysis either manually or using online analytics platforms. Popular Chips, for example, analyses an account in seconds and provides you information on demographics, inactive followers and even metrics like interaction rate. This information not only helps you better understand your followers it also helps you identify and root out fake accounts.
Sure, bots have grown to be more sophisticated and fake accounts are less visible than they were 3 years ago but they can never replace organic growth. The benefits of organic growth are longer lasting and more credible as compared to the illusion fake followers provide. If you are serious of cultivating a strong Instagram profile, you should start by better understanding your account.