The attractiveness of the influencer’s “job title” has led to many ínfluencers purchasing fake followers. It means that marketers can’t choose their influencers blindfolded – you may pay for an audience of fake accounts! Thus, it’s crucial to spot fake followers of an influencer before agreeing on a collaboration.
Here’s everything you need to know!👇🏼
1. Checklist for detecting fake followers
2. Example of an influencer profile with(out) fake followers
3. Fake engagement aka buying likes and comments
4. Fake follower checker by Promoty
Wait, why is it important to check for fake followers?
Fake followers are profiles that look like regular social media accounts but are actually not real people. Therefore, considering that the goal of influencer marketing is reaching potential customers, working with fake influencers with purchased followers does not create any value for the brands.
However, buying followers is a common problem in the influencer marketing industry. In 2019, CBNC published an article claiming that purchased followers cost brands $1.3 billion a year. When we did an “Influencer marketing in Estonia” survey, most marketers considered purchased followers and likes as the biggest problem in the industry.
Growing one’s account fast is fairly simple and affordable: the first search result on Google offers 1,000 followers for $12.99 (but probably you could also find better deals). Additionally, fake follower providers do quite active sales by themselves: in a survey that we ran in Estonia, almost 20% of creators admitted they had been offered to buy Instagram followers.
Combining the growth of the influencer marketing industry, the increasingly appealing “job title” of an influencer, and the affordability of buying fake followers, it’s crucial for marketers to be able to identify fake influencers. Otherwise, part of their influencer marketing budget might go to waste.
Sudden spikes in followers count might refer to buying followers
(screenshots from Promoty influencer analytics tool)
How to check for fake followers on Instagram? 👀
Fortunately, identifying purchased followers on Instagram is quite easy. Here are five things to check to spot fake followers, fake likes, or fake comments of an Instagram or TikTok influencer:
1. Engagement rate and patterns
2. Location of their followers
3. Profiles following the influencer
4. Followers’ growth over time
5. Use common sense
1. Low engagement rates
The first step of the fake follower audit is looking at the engagement rate of the TikTok or Instagram account: which shows which percentage of their followers are actively liking, commenting, sharing, and saving their posts. A higher engagement rate refers to genuine influencers.
However, remember that as the influencer’s follower count increases, the engagement rate tends to decrease – this is completely natural and does not necessarily indicate the purchase of followers. While for micro-influencers, a good engagement rate would be at least 5-15%, for influencers with a bigger follower count, it’s often 1-3%.
Another tip is to check the number of video views – especially on TikTok. Most likely, it’s lower than the number of followers. However, if it’s very low, it’s also a warning sign.
Khabane Iame has 146M followers and 49M video views on average
(screenshot of Promoty’s influencer analytics tool)
2. The location of their followers*
If the influencer’s engagement rate is significantly lower than average, you can open their Instagram account, click on followers and see if they are real followers. If there are many accounts without a profile picture and no posts, or the usernames consist of numbers and symbols, that might refer to fake followers.
The easiest way to find out the origin of followers is to use an influencer search tool that shows you the distribution of influencers’ followers by gender, age, country, and city.
For example, here’s a profile of Boity Thulo, the biggest South African influencer on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, most of her followers are from South Africa, followed by other African countries. As she is well-known in South Africa, there is no reason to suspect her of having fake Instagram followers.
On the other hand: if most of her Instagram followers were from Pakistan, we could tell that these are probably purchased.
If you’re not using any influencer analytics tool, you can simply reach out to an influencer and ask for a screenshot of their followers’ demographics before starting the collaboration. However, we’ve heard of cases where those screenshots have been photoshopped – so make sure to double-check.
*A little disclaimer here: Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are all international social media platforms so almost all users have both local and foreign followers – that does not always refer to purchased followers.
3. Influencer’s follower credibility
As suggested in the last paragraph, one way to spot fake followers is by opening an influencer’s followers’ list and checking the profiles listed there: are these real people or just empty accounts?
What does a fake account look like? A typical fake account has a much higher following count than followers. Usually, these are ghost accounts with no posts or very few posts. Sometimes, they have a name and a profile photo, sometimes they don’t. Also, a username that includes a lot of numbers (such as @ahmed9725b) may refer to a fake account.
If you’re using any influencer insights tool, it will do the work for you: our smart system checks a significant amount of followers of every influencer to calculate the follower credibility score and like credibility score for each Instagram creator. That helps you to know their followers’ quality in seconds, without doing all the manual work!
4. Influencer’s follower growth over time
If you suspect that an influencer has increased the number of their followers dishonestly, you can check this with tools that show the change in numbers over time.
When it comes to growing a social media account, it’s common to gain more followers on some days, fewer followers on others, and even lose some from time to time. Therefore, if you see that the number of followers has raised in thousands, or just in suspiciously round numbers, you can be quite sure that these are fake fans. On the other hand, slow and steady follower growth refers to consistent content creation over time, and thus, is a good way to spot genuine influencers.
Of course, there may be exceptions here as well – for example, giveaways, media coverage, or collaboration with a bigger influencer can result in an unusual increase in the number of followers.
5. Common sense
If in doubt, take a look at the influencer’s previous posts. Growing one’s social media following organically requires distinctive, engaging content and consistent posting. Therefore, it is worth thinking critically about whether the number of followers of an influencer and the value they create is in balance – and if not, then how have they gained so many followers?
…and continuing from here: why would you even want to work with an influencer whose content, in your opinion, doesn’t create any value?
Let’s analyze two influencer’s Instagram accounts
In order to make this guide a little more practical, let’s look at two Instagram influencers’ accounts. As Promoty is founded in Estonia, we’ll analyze two Estonia-based influencers.
Here’s an influencer who likely has fake followers:
Signs that hint at having fake followers:
👻 Low engagement rate: the number of their followers is 7000, but the number of average likes is only 20. Therefore, their engagement rate is 0,28% which is very low for such a small account;
👻 The influencer is based in Tallinn, Estonia, but their Instagram followers are mostly from India.
👻 The followers’ credibility is 13.7%
Here’s an influencer who seems to have little to no fake followers:
Why would we trust this influencer?
🤍 The percentage of engaged followers – 4.68% – matches the number of their followers – 12,900;
🤍 The influencer is located in Estonia and 91% of their followers are also from Estonia;
🤍 The followers’ credibility is 93.8% – which refers to real followers.
Fake follower engagement aka fake likes and fake comments
Since low engagement is one of the main signs of detecting fake followers, likes and comments are sometimes bought to hide the gap.
The easiest way to identify this is to look at the influencer’s latest posts and evaluate the quality of the comments: whether they are followers who sincerely engage with the influencer or somewhat random words in the style of “Cool post, check out my content”. You can also look at users who have liked the post to ensure they are real!
⚠️ Keep in mind that giveaway posts have a higher engagement. The post may also be ad-supported (appear in feeds as a sponsored post) to reach more people – a higher number of likes does not always refer to purchased likes.
Have a look at the tips that content creator Vanessa Lau shares on how to check fake followers and engagement on Instagram 👇🏻
Fake follower checker by Promoty
Identifying fake followers before confirming a collaboration is a responsibility of a brand representative. However, we’ve built tools to make it easier, faster, and cost-effective.
Using our influencer analytics tool, you can see a detailed report of social media influencers worldwide – including their followers’ growth over time, audience demographics, and influencer credibility. Basically, it’s a fake follower audit tool (but with many other features).
(We’ve attached enough screenshots in the article so you should already know what it is about 🤭)
Frequently asked questions
How to check fake followers on the Instagram app?
1. Open their Instagram account and compare the number of likes to the number of followers – if the ratio is lower than 3%, things might be sketchy.
2. Check the patterns in likes, comments’ quality, and patterns.
3. Open the followers view to make sure there are no fake Instagram accounts, purchased likes, or fake follower comments.
How to check fake Facebook followers?
In general, the same way: check if the number of Facebook likes and comments match the number of followers on the Facebook page! Of course, it’s possible to buy Facebook likes – for that, you can the Facebook fake followers checker or fake Facebook likes checker tool.
How to check fake followers on Twitter?
In general, the checklist for the Twitter accounts is the same: check for engagement (likes, retweets, replies) and open the follower’s section to make sure their followers are legitimate accounts.
Do you have a free fake follower check tool?
Promoty’s influencer analytics tool is 50€ monthly but has a free trial: if you complete onboarding, you will get some free credits to search for influencers, and see their insights, followers’ growth over time, audience location, and credibility. Shortly: it’s a fake follower audit tool but with many more functionalities.
Can you recommend a free Instagram audit tool?
There are free Instagram audit tools on the market. However, you probably want the best tool, not the cheapest tool. Our influencer audit tool is 50€ monthly but you will also get access to our global influencer search, in-depth influencer analytics, and influencer CRM. Try it out for free!
How do I know many fake followers the influencer has?
For knowing the influencer audience in detail, you should use a fake followers checker to scan TikTok and Instagram accounts you’re interested in – such as an influencer analytics tool by Promoty! That helps you find ghost followers by seeing their followers’ and likers’ credibility, and much more.