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How to spot a fake influencer: The signs of influencer fraud and why you should avoid it

Influencer Fraud

Influencer marketing is often the primary focus of company marketing strategies, especially when launching a new product or service. Top influencers have many followers who rely on them for honest recommendations – a massive resource for brand amplification.

However, not all influencers are valuable. Inflated metrics and bot followers mean some influencers have no sway over an audience. Many brands fall victim to the influencers’ false promises of product awareness, resulting in a non-existent ROI. 

Spotting fake influencers and understanding their risk is vital to maintaining brand integrity and avoiding wasted funds.

How do you become a fake influencer?

It’s surprisingly easy to become a fake influencer. These accounts may look like genuine influencers, with large followings and impeccable images, but are sometimes the work of fraudsters hoping to profit off a brand’s marketing budget.

Most followers of a fake influencer profile are likely bots, purchased to make the account appear popular. Fraudsters can also buy engagement to make the account have a high interaction rate.

Risk of influencer fraud

Unfortunately, fake influencers regularly fool brands and impact businesses in several ways.

Loss of money

Financially, there is potential for a substantial monetary loss, as teams spend marketing budgets on impressions never seen by genuine audiences. This loss is incredibly damaging for startup businesses or those with fewer resources.

Negative brand image

Using fake influencers is also bad for brand image. If potential customers and influencers discover you’ve used a fake influencer for a campaign, their trust in your brand will likely reduce. Your product or service is less likely to sell, and influencers will be reluctant to work with you in future.

How to spot a fake influencer

Luckily, you can look for things to minimise your risk of using fake influencers.

Unusual follower-engagement activity

Fake influencers usually have a low engagement rate despite their high follower count. They may also have a consistent number of likes or comments across their posts, having paid for this fake engagement number. Read through the influencer’s profile comments – do they appear genuine, or are they emoji-only/generic comments? They may have come from fake follower profiles if so.

Follower count spike

Look for sudden follower count spikes on the profile. Unless the account has a genuine reason for this rise in engagement – a viral post – a dramatic increase will likely result from bot accounts being purchased.

High follower ratio

Some fake influencers follow masses of accounts in the hope they will follow back to increase their follower numbers. Genuine influencers usually only follow around 5% of their audience, so be careful of accounts whose following number almost matches their follower count.

Post Number

Real influencer accounts have usually been around for years, resulting from a project that’s taken hundreds of hours and posts to achieve. Profiles with high followings, yet very few posts, are likely fake. 

The main takeaway is to approach each influencer you plan to work with cautiously. Follow a strict vetting process before you agree on a contract to ensure you invest time and money into a genuine influencer who will benefit your brand.

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