3. Comment & Like Pods
To start a pod, a user will first gather a number of other influencers with similar interests and popularity, and form an Instagram messaging group such as the one shown in the picture below. Whenever, any member creates a post, they notify the rest on the group and the other members will have to like and leave a relevant comment on it. This ultimately creates a system where the members of the pod support one another on their respective posts. This is an attractive method for many influencers as it is free and the engagement will appear organic to external sources as the comments left behind are specific to the post.
It may be argued that pods are not very effective in boosting engagement rate as the engagement received from pod members is relatively insubstantial compared to the influencer’s pre-existing engagement. While it may be true that an extra 8-10 likes do not matter much when the influencer already has 300 likes, engagement from pods act as stimuli to increase organic engagement from the influencer’s followers. With the recently changed Instagram algorithm prioritising posts with a higher engagement in the first few minutes over chronology, posts that have a higher initial engagement will appear higher up on more news feeds and are more likely to appear under ‘Top Posts’ on the Explore page for the hashtags used. This in turn increases the organic engagement from the influencer’s followers and from those who are checking out the hashtags.
While this method of gaining engagement looks rosy and unproblematic, the problems arise when members start posting 3-5 posts per day which requires the members to be constantly on their phones doing the liking and commenting. Pod members cannot afford to wait till the end of the day to engage with each others’ posts as the likes and comments lose their effectiveness. Over time the comments may start to lose the authenticity and turn very generic, resulting in bot-like engagement. These pods can easily be spotted by identifying the common pool of accounts dropping comments on each other’s accounts.
4. Follow / Unfollow
Follow / unfollow is a method where people follow numerous Instagram accounts solely for the purpose of getting a follow back. They would first find accounts with similar interests to theirs to follow so as to increase the chances of earning a follow-back. Some of those who follow back do it because they appreciate the influencer’s content or simply because they want to make new friends. After several hours or a day, the influencer will savagely unfollow all the accounts that they followed previously, even the ones that followed back. Evil, isn’t it?
In the end, the user would have a net positive follower count due to the accounts that followed back. The Follow/Unfollow technique is commonly used not just because of its effectiveness in gaining followers but also in its ability to obtain followers with genuine and credible accounts. (Unlike purchasing followers where the accounts are mostly run by bots.) This makes it harder to detect the inorganic following the influencer is having.The problem with buying fake followers is that bot followers will eventually stop posting content. After a while, Instagram will deem them as inactive, thus delete their accounts resulting in a drop in the influencer’s follower count. So the next time someone requests to follow your account, think twice about whether they are really interested in your profile or whether they have any other ulterior motives.
But you may ask, how is this unfavourable to brands? Won’t the greater number of followers obtained provide greater brand exposure? Similar to what was mentioned in the previous article on fake engagement, these followers being gained inorganically, would not care about the influencer’s content. As a result, they are less likely to be influenced by any collaborated posts and the brand would not stand to gain any potential customers. If these individuals do not buy the brand’s product, this becomes lost value to the brand.
Although the above methods may seem attractive for influencers to increase their appeal to brands, they can be uncovered easily through several influencer analytics software such as Popular Chips. Advertisers need to be wary of the various fraudulent methods influencers may employ so as to be able to determine the ideal influencers for their brands to work with.
This is the final part in a series entitled ‘Instagram Fraud!’. The aim of this three-part series is to inform you of the various types of fraudulent activities that can take place in the world of influencer marketing. Click here if you missed Part 1 on Fake Followers and here if you missed Part 2 on fake engagement.