The 5-Step Guide to Spotting an Influencer with Fake Followers: Step 2

Using Engagement (Rate)

In the first part of our five part series, we talked about how to identify fake followers by looking at an influencer’s audience growth. In the second part of this series, we’ll show you a second method to help you work out if an influencer has fake followers–by checking their engagement rate.

Step II: Check their Engagement

Watch out for: low or unusual engagement rate

Another tell-tale sign that an influencer has purchased fake followers is a low engagement rate, a value calculated based on the number of likes and comments received as compared to the influencer’s number of followers.

Low engagement rate [Image generated via Popular Chips‘s proprietary platform]
So what can we consider a good engagement rate? Unfortunately, there is no a single value that applies across the world. As a general rule, however, the number differs based on country and the size of the influencer’s following. Some countries like Japan have users who are more avid on social media and who have a greater tendency to engage in posts they enjoy. The average engagement rate of Japanese influencers currently stands at 4.42%. In comparison, users in Saudi Arabia have an average engagement rate of 0.90%.

Size also makes a difference. A micro-influencer who has an audience of fewer than 50 000 followers typically has an engagement rate higher than the country’s average, while a mega-influencer is likely to fare worse than the national average for engagement rate. Finally, celebrities in general (despite their sheer number of followers) tend to have a higher engagement rate than mega-influencers. This is in part because celebrities tend to have a more active fan-base than mega-influencers and because celebrities, being so well-known, often receive a lot of spam from users hoping to get more likes, comments or follows from other visitors of their page.

Comparison between engagement rates of celebrities, mega-influencers and micro-influencers

How does a low engagement rate signal fake followers? Since the engagement rate is a proportion of the engagement received as compared to the number of followers an influencer has, a low engagement rate suggests that the influencer, who bought fake followers to boost their following, does not experience a similar increase in engagement because purchased followers only add to the follower count, but do not engage with any of the influencer’s posts.

As covered in our article on fake engagement, some influencers who have purchased fake followers get around this problem by purchasing likes and comments as well.

Website offering various “like” packages.

If both follower count and engagement can be faked, how then can we separate the good influencers from the others? It should be quite clear by now that the upkeep of the good influencer facade costs a pretty penny. This is why influencers, especially those who post multiple times a day, sometimes do not purchase engagement for all of their posts. This leads to cases in which the influencer receives many likes for certain posts (for example, only the sponsored ones, even though the post has not been boosted) but few likes for the rest of their posts.

Of course, this is assuming that the influencer has not made any special announcements on that post. The announcement of a pregnancy, a birth, an engagement and other such events do sometimes result in a much higher engagement than the average.

While looking at engagement rate is one of the five methods to tell if an influencer has fake followers, it is a method best used in conjunction with others. Since engagement rate is also a measure of how interested an influencer’s audience is in the posts said influencer produces, a low engagement rate alone could also be an indication that the influencer’s posts do not meet their followers’ expectations. This is to say that a low engagement rate and irregularities in engagement do not necessarily indicate fake followers. Instead, a low engagement could serve as one warning sign among others of the presence of fraud.

This is part two in a series entitled ‘The 5-Step Guide to Spotting an Influencer with Fake Followers’. The aim of this five-part series is to provide you with five foolproof methods of identifying an influencer who has purchased fake followers. To read part one on identifying fake followers using audience growth, click here.

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