When collaborating with influencers, it’s always nice to know you can count on them to help you get the desired results. Keeping that in mind: influencers are as authentic and powerful as their audience lets them be. That’s why you need to remember one thing: just because their account says they have a big amount of followers, doesn’t mean those followers are genuine and real. It might look like an endless struggle to find out who is getting a little… creative with their follower growth strategy and who isn’t, but we hope to help you figure out who has genuine followers, and who is fooling you.

The blame isn’t entirely on influencers. Think of it as a vicious circle. The bigger Instagram gets, the bigger the pressure to have a sizeable following. Subsequently, a common mistake by brands is working with big influencers, even when they are fake. Smaller influencers lose out on collaborations and feel like they have no other option than to buy followers so brands will start noticing them too. And this just keeps on going.

Signs of fake followers

Thankfully, there are some signs that could indicate fake followers. But be careful: an incorrect assumption or accusation of fake followers could result in some serious damage to the public image of any influencer. So even though there are some tools and tricks out there to help you figure out who’s real and who’s not, it’s important that these instruments are approached with caution.

1. Follower growth

This is the easiest one to recognize. Sometimes influencers go from 1K to 10K followers overnight which often isn’t natural. But there are always exceptions! Maybe they’ve gotten famous by being in the press and more people now know about them? Or maybe someone well-known gave them a shout-out? What you have to remember here is to always dig a little deeper. Try to be as sure as possible about influencers botting, because just a slight suspicion won’t cut it.

2. Like and comment rate

Besides followers, you can also buy likes. Do influencers suddenly have a lot more likes on their pictures even though their content barely changed? And in relation to that, do they hardly get 10 comments? Something is definitely up.
And when botting for followers, your like rate stays the same. What we mean by that is: when an influencer has 25K followers but barely gets more than 10 likes on their pictures, something isn’t quite right.

3. The followers

We don’t expect you to go checking an influencer’s every follower (especially when there are thousands of them). But a quick spot check wouldn’t hurt. Do they have a strange name? Do they follow thousands of people when they barely have any followers themselves? Do they live at the other side of the world? Chances are that’s a fake account. The same goes for the accounts behind the likes and comments.

4. The comments

Buying comments doesn’t mean buying good comments. When half of an influencer’s comments say the same thing (for example “cute picture”), there’s a good chance they’re bought. But even worse is when comments don’t even have anything to do with the picture. Comments that say “love your outfit!” on a food picture make no sense and are clearly fake.

We realize this all sounds labor-intensive, and depending on the size of your team this can take a lot of effort, time and resources. Thankfully, there are some websites that can do a big part of your job. For example, socialblade is a tool that provides insights and analytics. You can search any account and look for patterns in behavior. It shows you how many followers accounts gained and lost over a period of time, but a good thing about the tool is that you also get a graphic. If that looks dubious (lots of spikes, unnatural lines,…), you probably have an influencer in front of you that’s buying their followers.

But don’t give up hope just yet. We’re not here to scare you. Not all big influencers are botting. On the contrary, most of them gathered their following over the years with good, genuine content and hard work. It’s just those bad apples you need to keep an eye out for. Learn how to distinguish fake and real followers as a brand so you know you’re working with the right influencers who will reach the right audience. That way your campaign won’t go to waste.

If you still don’t see the time to do all of this or if you want to be completely sure you’re working with the most genuine influencers, Influo can help you. We make sure every influencer in our database is genuine so you can focus entirely on collaborating with your favourite influencers and getting the most out of your influencer marketing campaign.