Brands Are Cracking Down On Influencers With Fake Followers

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It used to be that as long as you had a large following on Instagram, even if they were fake followers, you could get brand deals. There are hundreds of sites that would even sell you followers. So, all you needed to do was to post some pictures, buy a couple thousand followers and start making some money.

Sorry, influencers, but the party is over. Brands have been taken advantage of for too long and they’re starting to fight back.

Last week, Unilever CMO Keith Weed announced that “the company is pushing for greater transparency in the influencer marketing space to combat fraud in the digital ecosystem; create better experiences for customers; and improve brands’ ability to measure impact.”

He went on to say that they are committed to not working with influencers who buy followers and stated that Unilever will never buy followers.

Guess what? Brands buy followers too.

Go visit one of the brands that you follow on Instagram. Look at its engagement. An average engagement rate, for accounts with a large following, is 5%. If the brand is much smaller than that, it could be buying followers.

According to the Points North Group, some of the biggest brands in the world have fake followers. It estimated that 78% of the Ritz-Carlton’s followers were fake, 32% of Pampers were and for Neiman Marcus it was 22%.

So if brands are doing it, and influencers are doing it, how can you spot the fakes?

  • Sudden Spike In Followers: There are really only two reasons for a sudden spike in Instagram followers: They were named a suggested user or they bought followers. If a user randomly had a massive spike, you should be suspicious.
  • Heavy Overseas Follower Count: An influencer with a large percentage of foreign followers should be audited. I’ve found that most of the sites that sell fake followers get them from accounts in Eastern Europe or South America.
  • Shady Followers: Scroll through their followers. Are there a large number who’ve never posted, or don’t have a profile pic? That’s a giant red flag.
  • Number Of Posts: A normal influencer will steadily grow his or her following, over several years, by consistently posting hundreds or thousands of pieces of content. An influencer with few posts, but a large following, is almost certainly fake.
  • They Follow Too Many People: In my experience, I’ve found that influencers normally follow 1-5% of their audience size. Be wary of influencers who follow an unusually high number of people. They are probably following thousands of people at a time, in the hopes that they will follow them back.
  • Read The Comments: Are they real or are they generic statements, like “Great pic!” If there isn't actual commentary, you should be wary. Also look at the languages used. Are they in the influencer's native language or a foreign one?

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