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How to Spot Fake Influencers

How to Spot Fake Influencers

With so many news stories coming out about “fake” influencers, who do you know when someone is authentic online? With so-called “fake” influencers going so far as to rent out studios for fake private jet selfies, it’s important to know how to spot fake influencers online.

A reported 86% of marketers are using influencer marketing nowadays, so it’s never been important to use “real” influencers. Unfortunately, many are quick to mislead audiences and brands about their followings, engagement, and more.

So how do you spot fake influencers on social media and beyond? Here are a few key things to look out for.

What Is a Fake Influencer?

First and foremost, what even is a fake influencer?

A fake influencer is someone who is misleading in some way. Regardless of their influencing niche, they’re lying in some way about their:

  • Followers
  • Engagement
  • Lifestyle
  • Endorsements
  • Appearance

How can an influencer “fake” any of these things? We live in a digital age of bots, purchased followers, and loop giveaways. These things artificially inflate influencer’s numbers to make them seem bigger than they are.

In reality, smaller influencers (known as microinfluencers) are sometimes more trustworthy. This is why it’s important for brands to find the right influencer for their needs without worrying too much about numbers.

Now, let’s talk about how to actually spot these fake influencers in the wild. Whether you’re building your own platform or looking to partner with influencers, it’s important to know who’s the real deal and who’s just smoke and mirrors.

1. Check Follower Quality

The first way to spot fake influencers is to take a look at an influencer’s follower list. You can do this on any social media account by going to followers and taking a closer look.

An authentic, real following will be full of real-looking accounts. If you notice an excess of blank profiles, bot accounts, or anything fishy, odds are they’re buying followers or using fake following tools.

It’s surprisingly easy to purchase followers, so this is more common than you think. Still, these fake followers don’t contribute to real engagement.

2. Beware of Spikes in Followers

There are a lot of tools you can use for free online to help you determine if there was a sudden spike in an influencer’s followers. While these can happen for legitimate reasons, like if some of their content goes viral, it’s usually a sign of fake practices.

The easiest tool to use is Social Blade. This lets you see a graph of an influencer’s growth on several different platforms over a period of months. If you notice any sudden growth spikes, be warned.

This example of Foxtail Coffee Co below shows steady growth over a period of several months. Any big spikes would be cause for alarm.

Social growth graph

3. Review Engagement Ratio

The engagement ratio for an influencer is the percentage of followers who engage with content. For example, if someone has 1,000 followers and gets an average of 100 interactions on each post, they have an engagement ratio of 10% which is considered pretty good.

On the other hand, if a fake influencer has 30,000 followers and only gets 100 comments/likes per post, this is suspicious. It could indicate that they’ve purchased followers.

4. Look for Generic Comments

Another way to assess an influencer’s engagement is to take a closer look at the comment section of posts and videos. If you spot the same people commenting again and again, this is an indication that they might be in a comment pod. This is when a group of creators agree to comment on each other’s posts, and this isn’t real engagement.

You could also spot a lot of generic emojis or basic comments like “nice” or “great picture.” While a few of these occasionally is nothing to worry about, they’re often a sign that the influencer is using fake engagement methods like pod groups or even engagement apps.

The comment should always be relevant to the photo, and they should feel real. If it looks off, it probably is. For example, this donut shop has comments directly relating to the content of the photo.

Instagram example of authentic engagement

5. Review Past Collaborations

Finally, if you’re planning on working with an influencer, be sure to review any of their past collaborations. These are a great way to see how authentic an influencer is, and whether they have any sway over their audience.

If their collaboration looks natural and genuine, this is a great sign. Otherwise, it might be worth reconsidering this partnership. It’s best to find something that’s a strong fit for your audience, especially if you’re a small business.

The Bottom Line on Influencer Marketing

The good news is that influencer marketing is doing better than ever. Brands across the globe are successfully partnering with influencers of all sizes, and these collaborations are a great way to generate brand awareness.

In the end, it all comes down to a strong analysis. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Finding the right influencer takes time, but it pays off. If you’re serious about avoiding fake influencers, keep these tips above in mind. With time, it’s easy to spot these fakers from miles away.

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