Keith Weed, the CMO of Unilever, announced that they would refrain from collaborating with creators who purchase followers. They’re calling for platforms involved in the influencer marketing landscape to combat online fraud in order to build trust and create better consumer experiences.
To combat fraudulent behavior such as Instagram engagement pods, we take extra steps in reviewing and vetting creator profiles before suggesting them to brands. In this article, we’re sharing 10 of the most common signs we look for when determining whether creators have fake followers.
10 ways to spot fake followers
Our fraud detection tools automatically flag creator profiles that display suspicious activities, some of which are mentioned below. They are then reviewed manually by our team, and if the creators have any fraudulent activity, they’ll be immediately suspended/deleted from our platform. This way, brands will be able to search and collaborate with trustworthy creators.
Here are 10 abnormalities we watch out for:
1. Content quality vs. Follower size
The creators’ content quality does not justify the amount of followers the creators have.
2. Engagement vs. Follower size
There’s suspiciously high or low engagement (likes + comments), relative to the follower size.
Profiles with huge variations in likes on their posts should also raise a red flag. For example, a creator with 2,500 likes on some posts, and 200 on others, has suspicious engagement. Engagement shouldn’t be too consistent either, meaning it shouldn’t be similar across all their posts.
Use our Instagram engagement benchmarks below to determine what engagement rates you should expect for specific follower ranges:
3. Amount of content vs. Engagements and Following
The creators publish little content but have: (a) a high number of engagements on their posts and/or (b) a large following.
4. Follower to Following ratio
Their ratio of followers to following is abnormal. Genuine creators typically have more followers than people they follow. If their following count is larger, they may be using a ‘follow-for-follow’ or a ‘follow-unfollow’ tactic to grow their audience.
5. Audience quality
A large sample of the creators’ followers display characteristics of being fake. The sample may have traits that include: (a) little to no content, (b) no profile pictures, (c) strange usernames, (d) anonymous profiles, (e) suspicious follower to following ratios, (f) copied bios, and (g) stock photo profile pictures.
6. Instagram account creation vs. Following
The creators created their Instagram accounts recently, but they already have a large following.
7. Follower growth
There are sudden and irregular follower patterns on the creators’ profiles. Their follower count may display massive bursts of growth several times in exact numbers, which may then be followed by large drops in their follower count — this occurs when Instagram deletes fake accounts in bulk. For example, a creator may have several follower growth bursts of 5,000 over a course of two weeks, then experience a sudden drop of 7,000. Genuine creators typically have a steady growth of followers on their accounts.
Creators may also employ a ‘drip feed follower’ method, where they purchase a steady stream of fake followers over a period of time, instead of in bulk. While this tactic is more hidden, it can still be detected when you observe their daily Instagram growth — they may gain and lose followers every day — and engagement — they may have low engagement on their posts.
8. Comment quality
The majority of comments left on their posts are spammy, generic, and repetitive. Comments can include: “Good job” or “Nice one.”
9. Engagement over time
After creators publish content, the posts quickly generate a substantial amount of likes in a short period of time likely from an Instagram engagement pod.
10. Video views vs. Follower size
Their video posts have very little views compared to their follower size.
Bear in mind that even though a creator’s Instagram account may display one or more of the abnormalities listed above, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the creator is fraudulent — Instagram profiles must be examined as a whole and in the correct context. For example, profiles that have follower bursts over a brief period of time may be the result of them being featured on the Instagram Discover Page, rather than them buying fake followers.
It’s also important to emphasize that virtually all Instagram accounts have fake followers — bots will follow accounts even if users did not purchase them. Instagram can’t eliminate all fake followers on their platform, as persistent scammers will always find ways to circumvent the policies and systems Instagram has in place to prevent fraudulent activities.