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The Definitive Guide to Spotting Fake Instagram Followers

By Eric Samson, Last Modified
Nov 17, 2016
> Marketing

Social media has created an expectation in which having a high follower count equals high monetary value. As Google continues to place greater weight on social metrics like shares and followers, digital marketers are more and more looking towards social media marketing as a useful and cost effective SEO tactic.

After all, if you can spend $75 to post a video on an Instagram account with 20,000 followers in your niche, that’s a pretty great deal. The only problem is if those 20,000 Instagram followers are fake.

Why are there Fake Instagram Followers?

As content marketing continues to gain relevancy, social media platforms like Instagram are prime for reaching niche audiences. Social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram allow you to target specific audience demographics and reach them directly.

The basic idea behind marketing on Instagram specifically begins with you examining a highly influential (+20,000 followers) Instagram account to gauge what types of content are performing well. Then you create your own piece of branded content, taking into account the prior analysis of successful posts. Lastly, you pay that account to share your post with their legion of niche-focused highly engaged followers.

Perfect right? Well, no. Because of the monetary potential for highly influential Instagrammers to engage in branded content partnerships with digital marketers, fraudulent and spammy accounts have become common.

Create an Instagram account with plenty of fake followers and charge digital marketers high fees to market to their followers. An account that may seem extremely attractive due to it being in your niche and having a high follower count may turn out to be no more than a facade without any value at all.

What’s important to note is that all of this account aren’t run by shady individuals overseas. Anyone or any business, in theory, could pay for fake followers.

Why would they do this? The concept is simple, having a high number of followers will create the illusion that the person or brand is more relevant than they actually are. This alone is a reward, regardless of any potential sponsored content partnerships with other brands. So before you pay to advertise or market on any Instagram account, you should perform your due diligence and examine the account for fake followers. 

How to Spot Fake Instagram Followers

Fake Instagram followers can be detrimental to marketing initiatives. Spending money to promote content on accounts with large amounts of fake followers is money wasted. This can be devastating for small business and startups where every cent of their budget counts.

To assist you in discovering the fakes from the famous, I’ve compiled a list of some useful tricks for spotting fake Instagram followers.

Low engagement

An account with a high amount of followers but low engagement is a key giveaway that the account has fake followers. The typical rule of thumb is that there should be a 2 percent engagement rate of followers per post.

So if an account has 50,000 followers and a post only gets three likes, then that account is definitely fishy and should not be invested in.

Nine or fewer photos on page

This is another classic red flag. If an Instagram account with a lot of followers has less than nine photos on its page, then it’s best to skip over that one. 

Sudden spike in followers

If an account has a sudden leap in the followers on its page, odds are that the growth is inorganic. Likely, the followers are phony.

Follower to following ratio

According to MediaKix, spam-bot accounts typically have a high ratio of people they follow to people following them, as well. While authentic accounts usually have a 1:1 follower-to-following ratio, fake accounts follow an average of 41 Instagrammers for each one that follows them.

Audit individual followers

A sure fire way to guarantee that an Instagram account’s followers are real is to perform individual audits on several of the followers.

Things to look out for when performing your audits include:

  • Spammy Usernames, e.g., lot’s of numbers and nonsensical text
  • Private accounts
  • Different language than account’s administrator
  • Spammy comments, e.g., nonsensical language

Now that you’re equipped with the tools to spot fake followers it’s time to get out there and start marketing to your niche, good luck!



Photo credit: happydancing/Shutterstock

Eric Samson
Eric Samson
See Eric Samson's Profile
Eric Samson is the co-founder and CEO of Group 8A, a boutique digital marketing agency. With over a decade of digital marketing and entrepreneurship experience, Eric has a wealth of first hand knowledge and insight that he enjoys sharing through his writing.
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