Digital Marketing, Thought Leaders

5 Ways to Determine If an Influencer Is Fake

December 18, 2018

by Shane Barker

Digital Marketing Consultant

If you find it challenging to differentiate between fake influencers and real ones, this post can help. Learn five effective ways to identify fake influencers.

Influencer marketing has helped many brands get incredible results. It is one of the fastest-growing methods to acquire customers online. However, if you want your brand to benefit from influencer marketing, you need to collaborate with genuine influencers.

Today, it’s easy to buy fake followers and increase your following with bots. Many fake influencers use these techniques to seem influential. They artificially inflate not just their followings but sometimes their engagement rates, too. But, they can’t influence a single individual, as there is no real reach.

Many brands and marketers find it extremely challenging to separate fake influencers from real ones. If you are facing this challenge, too, let’s have a look at five of the most effective ways you can differentiate between fake and real influencers.

1. Analyze the Influencers’ Profiles

The first thing that can help you analyze the authenticity of influencers is their social profile.

If you find an influencer with an incomplete profile, a missing profile photo, a spammy username, or irrelevant bio, these are huge red flags.

An influencer who hasn’t posted much or who posts inconsistently can also indicate that they are fake. However, the biggest sign of a fake influencer is when you find thousands of followers on their profile with not even a dozen posts.

Here’s one such account on Instagram.

Fake Instagram influencer

Source: Instagram

This profile has nearly 8,000 followers yet has only posted 5 times and is following just 9 people. That’s not an influencer.

In addition, social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook allow influencers to have their profiles verified for added authentication. You can also check that the influencer has a blue certification badge on their account. This is a sign that they are not fake.

Author, chef, and influencer Candice Kumai has a verified Instagram account.

Instagram influencer @candicekumai

Source: Instagram

You can tell Kumai’s account is authentic because she has the blue verified badge to the right of her name.

You should also consider reviewing the kind of content influencers produce, their frequency of posting, the way they interact with their audience, and other account activity.

All of this can give you an idea of how authentic an influencer is and how relevant they are to your brand and niche.

2. Run a Complete Audience Analysis

You can figure out if an influencer has fake followers by seeing who follows them. Check out the profiles of their followers.

An influencer whose followers have not posted any photos or lack a profile picture might have fake followers. Similarly, followers with private accounts or spammy usernames are also suspicious.

If “fan-buying” services follow them, it might be a sign that they acquired fake followers.

Manually running a complete analysis of influencers’ audiences can be difficult. You can use platforms such as Buzzweb to analyze who their audience is and how real they are. This platform rates influencers from A+ to F based on their audience quality, engagement rate, niche, and other factors.

Let’s take a look at the Instagram audience analysis of blogger and influencer Lele Pons.

Instagram influencer Lele Pons

Source: Buzzweb

Pons’s number of followers, engagement rate, and audience quality gives her a Buzzweb score of “A.”

Such a detailed report from Buzzweb can help you determine the authenticity of influencers as well as their followers.

An influencer with a good audience quality can help you engage real people and strengthen the credibility of your brand.

3. Analyze the Influencers’ Engagement Rates

If you want to figure out if influencers are fake or real, you need to check their engagement rate as well. This refers to the percentage of likes, comments, or shares on their posts compared to their follower count.

Usually, you should consider the average engagement rate of their most recent 20 to 30 posts.

Their engagement rate should be somewhat proportional to their number of followers. If their engagement rate levels are suspiciously low, they likely have fake followers. Or, their audience might be disinterested in the content they post.

In both cases, such an influencer won’t do your brand any good and should be avoided.

However, these days many fake influencers also inflate engagement with purchased likes, views, and comments. For example, the following YouTube video has over 2 million views but not even 3,000 upvotes. This suggests that the video creators might have purchased fake views.

Fake YouTube views

Source: YouTube

What’s more disturbing are the comments on this video. Out of the 2 million viewers, only 335 of them commented on this video. Most of these comments pointed out that the views are fake.

Fake YouTube views

Source: YouTube

Clearly, the high number of video views does not prove that its creator is a real influencer.

You should analyze various engagement metrics to figure out if an influencer is fake or real.

4. Analyze the Comments on Influencers’ Posts

In order to check the authenticity of influencers, you need to pay special attention to their comments section. Analyze the comments on their posts for both quantity and quality metrics.

If influencers have fake followers, they will not have a significant amount of real engagement.

See if the comments on their posts are relevant. If they have spam or irrelevant comments or uncertain emojis, they could have fake followers.

Here’s an Instagram post with irrelevant comments.

Irrelevant comments Instagram

Source: Instagram

Two-word comments or use of generic terms such as “Great post,” “Good job,” or “I love it” may also be bots.

If you see comments that are relevant to their posts or spot a real conversation happening between the influencer and their audience, it means the comments are genuine. It also suggests that the influencer has real community engagement that can benefit your brand.

The following post by blogger and influencer Emily Valentine has a trail of comments that are relevant to her photo.

Emily Valentine Instagram influencer

Source: Instagram

As you can see, the people commenting on her post sound like real people. The comments refer to what’s showcased in the photo, such as a mention of her outfit matching the drink.

This is the real engagement you should actually look for in an influencer. Such influencers can help you increase the visibility of your brand.

5. Analyze Influencers’ Follower Growth Rate

Another powerful way to find out if influencers are fake or real is to look at their growth history. It can tell you a lot about if they have grown their following naturally.

When influencers grow their following naturally, you will see gradual growth. If you see any suspicious changes or inflation in their follower growth, they might have bought fake ones.

However, in some cases, this growth can be the result of their marketing efforts as well. Or it might be a result of their collaboration with a big brand or an event they attended.

You should also consider looking at who is unfollowing them. When an influencer purchases fake followers, they are likely to lose most of them eventually.

Significant peaks and drops in the follower count of an influencer can indicate that they have fake followers.

Find a Real Influencer

Working with fake influencers is a waste of your time, money, and effort. They can also harm the reputation of your brand.

Fake influencers also harm real influencers by having a negative impact on the entire influencer marketing industry.

Running a thorough influencer vetting process is important so that you can work with real influencers who have real influence and engagement.

You should always check the authenticity of an influencer before working with him or her. The tips mentioned above will help you identify genuine influencers to collaborate with.

About the Author

Headshot of Shane BarkerShane Barker is a digital marketing consultant for 15 years with an emphasis on Influencer Marketing in the last 5 years. He is specialized in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.

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