6 Ways to Spot a Fake Influencer

For many companies, partnering with the right influencers can do great things for their business. It can increase their followers/customers, help increase mindshare, brand recognition and even increase sales.

However, in the world of social media, it’s not always easy to tell if someone actually has any social influence. Someone’s influence is a lot more than just numbers. That can be faked.

So, how do you spot the fakes?

Here are six tips to help you spot fake social media influencers before you waste your money on them.

Look Beyond the Number of Followers

It can be easy to jump to the conclusion that someone with thousands of followers must be an influencer. Well, think again. Remember, it is very easy to pay for followers. Many large accounts have done this to get a head start on social media. Those aren’t influencers you want to partner with. If most of their followers are fake, you won’t benefit from a partnership with them at all!

“If you have 10,000 followers and 5 likes on your content, it’s pretty obvious that the followers are not real – because anyone who was a real follower and actually interested in your content would take the time to like, comment, or share.” – Mandi Relyea-Voss

This leads us to another important thing when spotting a fake influencer—engagement.

Assess Their Engagement

How many likes on average does this person’s post get?
What’s that number like compared to their number of followers?
Are there lots of comments?
What types of comments are typically made?
Are they generic, copy-and-paste type comments?

When an account has many fake followers, this can be reflected in the engagement rate on their posts. Fake accounts do not actually engage with any content at all. They are simply dead weight, their only purpose is in making the follower number look large and nothing more.

If an account has a ton of followers, but a very low number of likes in comparison, that is a huge red flag. Try to do a little math and find out what percentage of their followers are actually engaging with their posts. If this number is lower than the percentage you get (assuming you don’t have fake followers as well), be cautious about partnering with that person.

Pay Attention to Their Growth

Although not all businesses will have the time to pay a lot of attention to different influencers’ growth, if you do have the time it is a very good idea to take note of an influencer’s growth. Monitor their account for a good chunk of time and see what happens. If they are constantly losing large amounts of followers, and then gaining larger amounts of followers, that’s a huge red flag.

Accounts with legitimate followers tend to have a small, but steady growth. It may take them a lot of time and work to gain a lot of followers, but those are followers that are actually going to benefit them–and you, if you partner with them–in the long run.

Look Through Their Followers List

Looking through someone’s follower list can be a super tedious task, but if you are going to pay someone money to promote your products/services on their account, it’s worth the time it takes to properly vet them.

Fake accounts/bot accounts are typically not too difficult to spot in someone’s follower list. They usually have a name and a profile picture, but not much else. If you find many accounts in someone’s follower list that don’t seem legitimate to you, it’s a pretty good indicator that your potential influencer has paid for their followers.

Google Them

This strategy doesn’t always work, depending on the type of influencer you are in search of, but it is always a good idea to look their name up on Google. Large influencers usually have multiple social media channels and are active online in more than one way and platform.

After a quick Google search, you may have a better idea about the influencer’s authority online. However, this is not always relevant, especially for micro influencers. Micro influencers may only be active on one channel (like Instagram), so this tip may leave you empty-handed. Use this tip sparingly.

Ask for the Numbers

The proof is in the pudding, and many influencers will have done partnerships with brands in the past. Ask to see the numbers from previous partnerships including engagement rates, exposure, etc. Many larger influencers will know basic numbers and averages as to what a company can expect to see if they choose to partner up.

If the influencer doesn’t have these numbers or doesn’t want to give them to you, then you can be almost sure that they’re not legitimate.

It’s important to remember that just because someone has a huge amount of followers, it does not guarantee that they have any real influence. If you are going to put money and time into an influencer marketing campaign, you want to ensure that it’s not going to waste!

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This blog post was originally published in July 2018 and has been edited to improve accuracy and readability.


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