How To Spot Fake Influencers In 5 Easy Steps

Every now and then we can read stories about random people who have fooled big brands that they are influencers and got paid for promoting them. This article is here to make sure yours is not one of those brands!

How To Spot Fake Influencers In 5 Easy Steps

Every now and then we can read stories about random people who have fooled big brands that they are influencers and got paid for promoting them. This article is here to make sure your brand is not one of those brands!

Who are Instagram Influencers?

The term Influencer gets thrown around a lot these days so its meaning can be hard to pin down. In a research done by Opaic, the majority of respondents thought that a person with 10,000+ social following can be counted as an Influencer.

As the name suggests, influencers influence people. This happens with the help of trust, built bit by bit through quality and engaging content.

As we live increasingly on the internet, social media stars there become an ever larger part of our life. In turn, these people influence our views and purchasing decisions.

Opaic’s research shows that 31% of people have purchased a product because they have seen it in an Influencer’s post.

Influencer marketing rests on the same emotional pillars as word of mouth: An honest recommendation from someone in our daily lives. This is the superpower of Influencer marketing.

State of Influencer marketing

This relatively new branch of marketing has been all the rage in the last couple of years, culminating on Instagram. According to Mediakix data, the market is set to hit $10B by 2020 from a measly $500M in 2015. Growth like this puts even the Chinese economy to shame.

As brands frantically pouring buckets of cash into Influencer promotions, many of them get to learn about fake influencers the hard way.

What are fake Influencers?

Everything can be faked on the internet. Follower count and engagement are no exception, and faked they are.

Fake followers will cost brands $1.3 Billion dollars this year according to the cybersecurity firm Cheq projects.

The incentive for Influencers is clear - more perceived followers = more money from brand deals.

Fake likes and followers on Instagram are cheap:

1000 fake followers cost $3-$8
1000 fake likes cost $4-$9
1 fake comment costs $0.12

Luckily, there are several ways to discern the fake from the real deal if you know what to look for:

Step 1: Check spikes in follower count

Influencers buying followers tend to get lazy, instead of rationing out the fake followers over a longer period, they buy several at once. Sudden spikes in growth is a telltale sign of fakery that you can easily spot with an Instagram tracker.



Above is the difference between a spike in FAKE and REAL followers.

On the first account none of the new followers liked any posts, resulting in the following trends:

Follower count went up sharply by +177,031
Engagement rate fell sharply by -65%
Average likes per post was unchanged at ~2272 likes/post

The bottom account enjoyed a real follower bump. New followers clearly engaged with her posts with the following results:

Follower count increased by +965,220
Engagement rate Increased by +2.7%
Average likes per post shot up by +704,638

To reassure ourselves of our findings a quick google news search for the first influencer (shajar_khan) with the approximate date range which saw the spike.

If no news publications were made for this period, the followers are most likely fake.

Googling Courteney Cox reveals the reason behind her spike. Her co-star Jennifer Aniston in the show called Friends Joined Instagram around that time and that channeled a lot of new followers to her Instagram account.


This method helps with detectings sudden purchases of fake follower but beware though, so-called “drip fed” fake followers send the inauthentic audience gradually - evading detection by this technique. Best practice is running an Influencer audit on the Influencers’ audience to get the exact numbers of fake followers.

Step 2: Check Engagement rate

Fake Followers will never engage with posts so a lower than average engagement rate is expected. A study made by shows the average engagement rates by account size. If an Influencer falls considerably short of the average, it should raise the alarm.

Step 3: Check like to comment ratio

Fake comments are far more expensive than fake likes. What often happens is that not enough comments are bought to compensate for the fake likes, therefore, the like-to-comment ratio shifts from the norm

We analyzed over 43 million posts to find the average like comment ratio on Instagram: 115 likes for each comment.

Step 4: Check the quality of comments

Fake comments usually all look the same - two-three generic words with some emojis. They are easy to spot, especially if there’s many of them one after the other.


There ought to be comments like this on posts with only organic replies but they will be disproportionately more on posts with lots of fake comments.


Topical, relevant comments are always a good sign of natural engagement.

Step 5: Get an Influencer audit

A proper Influencer audit report will give complete understanding of their audience as if it were your own.

Detecting fakery on any instagram profile is a numbers game and AI trumps our monkey brains when it comes to analyzing large volumes of data.

A good Influencer audit can determine the exact composition of fake and real followers, demographics, audience interests, growth methods used by the influencer, Fake likes and comments and much more.

Register a free IGBlade account to view an Influencer audit.