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Are You Following a Real Instagram Influencer, or Just a Fake?

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In general, we all need to be cautious about what we do on the internet.  Look at what’s happened with Facebook.  That said, though, this isn’t the only thing you need to be careful about.  How do you spot fake Instagram influencers who have bought their likes and followers and then duped companies into using them?  Influencer marketing on Instagram can be a huge drain on your resources and an incredible waste of time.  But it can also be one of the best marketing tactics that you’ve ever used.  It’s all about who you choose.  If you’re going to use an Instagram influencer, this is what you need to know:

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Evaluate Their Engagement Rate

It’s easy to make a judgment of qualification based on the number of followers, the number of likes and even the number of comments an influencer has.  While this kind of information can give you some helpful insights, it’s only when you also look at engagement rate as well.  To put this into perspective, the median engagement rate on Instagram in 2017, was only 2.7%.  Which means anything above this rate is pretty good.  How can you make this determination?  If you see thousands of followers, but not many likes per post, then that’s not a good sign.  If you see an impressive number of likes on a post for today, but only about 50 or 60 on posts from a month ago, or so, these likes have probably been bought.

You can also check this by scrolling through the likes on a recent photo.  If you see a lot of accounts with weird names, which also include numbers or a lot of accounts that have no profile pictures, it means these followers or likes were probably purchased.

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Is Their Community Active?

Community is key when evaluating an influencer profile. You want to make sure that there’s a real conversation happening between the influencer and the community. This means that the majority of comments from the influencer’s followers are genuine (and not two-word, spam comments or obscure emojis), and that above all, the influencer is replying to those comments with something more personal than “thanks.” If comments aren’t referring to what’s actually going on in the post or the wider context of the influencer’s account, again, you can assume that they’re automated by bots. And an audience of bot accounts is not going to bring you any joy (and by joy I mean money).

Of course, big accounts are bound to attract some spam, and that doesn’t automatically mean the influencer in question is a fake, but you’ll be able to get a good idea of the actual influence of an account from the back and forth in the comments.

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How Steady is Their Growth?

The same kind of rules apply to follower growth as well as account activity such as likes and comments.  If someone has a significant spike in followers over one day, they’re likely not real.  Alternatively, if their number of followers decreases suddenly, this is a good chance that Instagram has cleaned out blacklisted bot accounts, that were purchased by the fake influencer.  It is possible to gain a lot of followers organically, but it’s really hard work ever since Instagram stopped showing posts chronologically in the feed. As a general rule, the follower growth of a real influencer should be steady and fairly consistent.

How else can you spot a fake?

  • Do some research on Google.  If you search the influencers name, you can get a good idea of what their authority is outside of Instagram.  This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to figure out who to collaborate with.
  • Look at what they’re promoting.  Look for posts tagged with #sponsored in their feed to see who they’ve collaborated with previously.  Are their products that they promote consistent with their personal brand?  Or do they put their name on everything?
  • Ask for proof.  It doesn’t hurt to ask what results they have generated from previous collaborations with other brands.

A good influencer should be able to back up their worth with some basic stats at least. If you’re unsure if a person is a legitimate influencer, you probably already know the answer.  Go with your instincts.

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