Partnering with an authentic influencer who has real sway with their followers can increase brand awareness and sales. On the flip side, fraudulent influencers with fake followers have the ability to waste brand assets and damage a brand’s reputation.
Below, we tell you everything you need to know about influencer fraud, fake followers, and how to take precautions to ensure you’re working with authentic influencers who will genuinely benefit your brand.
What is Influencer Fraud?
Influencer fraud is when a user inflates their profile metrics through inauthentic activity to appear as an influencer and earn the trust and partnership of brands. What makes a real influencer stand out from general users is their number of followers and the level of engagement and influence they have with that following.
In the beginning of social media marketing, brands decided the value of an influencer marketing campaign based on the number of followers an influencer had. This made it in the best interest of influencers to increase their follower count and thus increase their payouts.
Brands partner with influencers based on the assumption that the influencer can sway their audience in favor of the brand’s product. Fraudulent influencers have fake metrics – this means fake followers and fake engagement – over which they have little sway.
What Are Fake Followers?
Fake followers are social media profiles created for the sole purpose of bolstering other social media accounts. The profile itself isn’t active, engaged, or partial to a particular influencer. It just exists to add to metrics.
Influencers can buy fake followers from agencies or bots or team up with groups that all follow and engage with each other’s accounts. Fake social media engagement has also emerged as a tactic to make accounts look more authentic.
Below, we’ll break down a few methods for how to check for fake followers on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and more.
How to Check if a Social Media Account Has Fake Followers?
1. Fake Follower Check One: The Followers’ Profiles
One way you can check for fake followers on social media is by randomly selecting some of the influencer’s followers and looking at their profiles. Fake follower accounts usually don’t belong to an actual person. They’re either run by an agency or a bot.
You can usually tell if a follower is fake if:
- There are no posts (this is a great way to check for fake followers on Instagram since the platform will flag new accounts, which serves as a rational explanation for an empty page) or the posts are stock images
- There’s little or no information in the bio: most users say something about themselves or share a defining element of their identity in their bio. A bio with little to no personal information should raise suspicion
- There’s no profile picture: at large, social media is visual, so a profile without a profile picture is a red flag
2. Fake Follower Check Two: The Follower Count
Another way to check for fake followers is to look at the number of followers relative to the number of followed accounts.
Influencers tend to have way more followers than the number of accounts they follow.
Also, to grow an audience organically over time, the audience has to grow with content. An empty profile with a high follower count is likely a fake. A profile with low-quality content or a small amount of content and a high follower count is also a red flag.
Since fake followers aren’t real people, they don’t have communities outside of the fake ones created by the agencies or bots that run them. As a result, they’ll have a much higher number of followed accounts than followers.
An authentic user typically has a closer ratio of followed to followers because they follow their friends and friends follow them. If anything, celebrities and influencers might account for a higher number of followed accounts than followers.
3. Fake Follower Check Three: Account Engagement
Read the content engagement on the influencer’s profile. An influencer with a genuine following, who trusts their judgment, will see consistent and active engagement with their content. Followers will leave encouraging comments and ask questions and the influencer will connect with them. If the post comments are spam or “looks good” and “nice post” then that’s a clear indicator of low or no engagement and a sign that their following might be fake.
4. Fake Follower Check Four: Automated Influencer Vetting
Automated influencer vetting is a more accurate and efficient way to screen influencers and complete fake follower checks. While the above methods are quick ways for you to click through an influencer profile and make a judgment on your own, they aren’t always true representations of a profile.
For example, all profiles have fake followers (including brand and business profiles) even if they weren’t paid for. If you happen to click on a few accounts (out of the thousands of followers an influencer has) and happen to select a few fakes, you might make an inaccurate judgment.
That’s why influencer authentication software is a better, streamlined option to ensure you’re working with genuine influencers who can benefit your brand.
Bonus Quick Guide: Fake Follower Check by Platform
Fake Follower Check: Twitter
- Repeated or generic comments on brand pages
- Follower’s original content is follower growth related
Fake Follower Check: TikTok
- Empty bio
- Unoriginal videos
- Generic, confused, or unengaged comments
Fake Instagram Followers Check
- Low follower to following ratio
- Generic or unengaged comments on influencer and brand pages
- Unoriginal or no posts
How Sway Group Guarantees Authentic Influencer Partnerships
Sway Group vets influencers with great accuracy so brands can choose partnerships with confidence. Our team of Influencer Management professionals connect with influencers on a human level, asking detailed questions to better understand their potential for campaigns. To bolster the human element of our screening process, Sway Group uses software like our Influencer Dashboard and CreatorIQ (CIQ).
What is the Influencer Dashboard?
The Influencer Dashboard was created in partnership with CIQ and houses dynamic influencer profile one-sheets with live data on social reach, engagement rate, audience demographics, historical performance, campaign management, and more. The Influencer Dashboard allows Sway Group to create highly targeted lists of potential partnerships to streamline the influencer marketing campaign process.
What is Creator IQ?
CreatorIQ is the leading enterprise software provider for influencer marketing. The world of content creation, social media marketing, and influencer marketing have grown into its own economy. CIQ software was developed to keep up with the demands of that economy and allow brands to make educated moves. As the industry advances, so does CIQ, and so does Sway Group.
CIQ is TikTok’s first SaaS-only influencer marketing platform partner. As a result, Sway Group’s partnership with CIQ allowed us to advance our own influencer vetting software and gave us exclusive access to TikTok’s first-party insights on audience demographics, growth trends, best-performing videos, and more.
Why Brands Need Fake Follower Checks
In addition to being a waste of resources, working with fake followers can actually damage the brand itself.
One of the goals of an influencer marketing campaign is to grow a brand’s audience. Fake influencers will pay for their fake followers to engage with brands in an attempt to make partnerships look real. Even though a brand won’t see lead conversion from an inauthentic partnership, fake followers might follow and engage with their account, making the brand look as untrustworthy as the fake influencer.
That’s why it’s important to do fake follower checks before agreeing to work with an influencer. Just because someone has a high follower count doesn’t mean they have an authentic and engaged following, which is what makes influencer marketing campaigns worthwhile.
Work with Sway Group
Save time and worry by working with Sway Group. We are a full-service influencer marketing agency, which means we are actively involved in the campaign process from start to finish – and even before then.
Our work begins with recruiting, vetting, and hiring high-quality, authentic influencers so that we can facilitate truly influential partnerships.
Talk to us today and learn how we can partner with you for influencer and content marketing success.