Catching a fake influencer is actually really difficult these days. However, becoming one is easier than you think. It’s as easy as clicking a few buttons and having a few dollars to spare. Is it really that easy? After all, we have been trained to detect frauds, scammers, and become part-time FBI agents all thanks to social media. This article discusses the tactics you can use to catch a fake influencer committing influencer fraud and explains how they appear to be something they’re not.
The question is why would anyone want to do this? The answer could be fame, but most likely it’s because of the amount of money someone can gain from fooling companies out of thousands of dollars per post.
What is an Influencer:
According to influencerhub.com, an influencer is someone who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience; or since we’re being honest, purely based on looks. Influencers can make up to $0.10 per follower per post or more depending on their engagement. This may not seem like much but if you have 100,000 followers, it will add up quickly.
Analytics Influencers Provide:
Paid partnerships have been on the rise since influencers hit the scene. Even more concerning has been the number of influencers taking advantage of being paid to talk about a product they don’t even like or use. It can be seen as a win-win situation because the brand earns brand recognition and the influencer is paid to show products to their audience.
The issue is that some of these “influencers” have a fake following. According to an article published in Entrepreneur.com, up to 24% of Influencers have created a fake following to mislead brands into a paid partnership. This is known as Influencer fraud and is more common than you think. These frauds are so good at being perceived as authentic that they even go undetected by artificially intelligent software and even self-proclaimed digital marketing experts.
How to Catch a Fake Influencer:
Engagement to Follower Ratio:
The easiest way would be to compare an account’s number of followers to its average engagement rate. Engagement rates are the number of likes, comments and/or shares per post according to hootsuite.com. The formula to calculate the engagement rate is the total number of interactions their content receives divided by the total number of followers, multiplied by 100%. If these numbers are too good to be true, they usually are. For example, if the account has 10,000 followers but only receives 100 likes, this is most likely a fraud. Luckily for these scammers, there’s a way around it which I will explain in-depth later in the article. This makes it increasingly more difficult to catch fake influencers.
Catch a fake influencer with their Instagram Stories:
The latest way to tell if an influencer is fake is by asking for their Instagram story analytics within 24 hours of a story being posted. The story analytics displays the amount of impressions which is usually a little more than the accounts reached or the amount of people who viewed the story.
However, the most interesting part of a story’s analytics is the interactions by story viewers in the navigation section. These interactions are known as tap forward, tap back, exited, and next story. If you have a business profile and monitor your interactions, you will quickly notice that these numbers are similar to the amount of story views you have. The median tap-forward rate with a story containing 5 frames per day is about 75% according to a study done by RivalIQ. The quickest way to spot a fake is to compare story views and interactions in the navigation bar. If these numbers are way off, they are most likely an influencer fraud.
The pictures below were taken from an influencer’s provided story analytics. At a quick glance, they can quickly deceive even the most trained professional. They simply do not represent the claimed number of viewers because that would mean their engagement is amazing.
Figure 1: Catching a Fake Influencer using their Analytics: Compare the number of Impressions to the “Forward” number to see that only a few hundred users tapped forward on the story. We are all human, based on your own Instagram interaction, a majority of people tap through stories which is the biggest signal of forged numbers.
Figure 2: Screenshot of my Instagram Profile Story Analytics with 961 Followers.
Another way to spot fake influencers is to use auditing websites like HypeAuditor. Unfortunately, it seems that the artificial intelligence of some of these sites can’t tell the difference between real and fake followers. This is because the websites that you can purchase followers from make ghost/zombie accounts that are difficult to tell apart from a real profile. This is why it is important to analyze the data yourself. If you look at the graph below, you can see the sharp peaks indicating a very fast increase in followers. I ain’t no mathematician, but I know when shit don’t add up.
Figure 3: Instagram Auditing Tool to Check for Fake Followers
Fake It Until You Make It:
Faking it until you make it seems to be the most common type of social media fraud. Hell, the same can be said about those not on social media, but I’m going to just sit here and sip my tea though.
Fake Influencer Communities:
The easiest way to avoid being caught and called a fraud is to join a community of real users that have strict rules in place that operate on the basis of “engagement trading”. These communities trade engagement (likes, comments, follows, etc.) back and forth so there is a sharp increase in engagement as soon as content is posted and appears to be genuine interest in the post/influencer.
Fake Influencers Buy Followers, Likes, & Comments:
The quickest way to overcome the suspicion that you are a fake is to purchase followers, likes, and comments from websites like BuzzVoice. This website even goes as far as offering real comments from those with 10K followers. This makes catching a fake influencer nearly impossible as they have social proof.
Figure 4: Buzzvoice.com: A website to purchase real followers, comments, and likes.
Figure 5: Zoomed in view of Buzzvoice Statement
Catch a Fake Influencer with their Reels:
Many Instagram users mindlessly scroll and maybe pause for a second when someone or something catches their attention while scrolling. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t someone’s analytics or engagement rate unless you’re a nerd, such as myself. Reels are the latest feature on Instagram and is a clone of Tik Tok.
One influencer, in particular, is the reason I wrote this blog. The fake influencer purchased likes and views for their reel. This influencer’s reel was uploaded and within an hour had 3,000 likes but only had 709 views. After waiting 10 minutes thinking the reel’s views may be delayed, the views only increased by about 116 views. (See figure 6).
Figure 6: Screenshots of views and likes of Finfluencer’s Reel.
Figure 7: Screenshots of the same reel analytics.
The reel had 98.2K views and 5084 likes the next day. This is surprising considering they had 3762 likes with 700 views within hours of posting it. Moreover, the likes continued to decrease up until 2 days later reverting back to 3614 likes. (Figure 7) Did 1200 people all of a sudden realize they don’t really like the reel anymore?
You need to be really cautious about who you hire or scout to represent your product or brand. Of course, nobody is going to admit they are a fraud. Luckily, you were blessed with a brain to catch a fake influencer. I will update the blog with part 2 where I show you step by step how I replicated these steps.