How to Spot Authentic and Fake Instagram Influencers

Knowing the difference between authentic Instagram influencers and fake Instagram influencers is important for digital branders, but how can you tell the difference?

Knowing can be the difference between engaging with a whole new audience and getting social media scammed. If you want to know how to tell genuine Instagram influencers from scammers, read on.

Are Fake Instagram Influencers That Big of a Problem?

While there are countless influencers, wannabe influencers, and posts across Instagram every day, recent studies have some surprising insights into just how real they are. One Italian study found that 8% of Instagram accounts are fake.

While this does not seem that high, it is far more likely that you will run into problems with a real Instagram influencer with fake followers. According to data from the anti-fraud company Sway Security, over the course of a single day, about half of all posts that are sponsored or have ad tags are fake engagements.

Don’t Get Fooled

This is unsurprising, as the internet is flooded with supposed tips and tricks to help you fake your way to a large Instagram following across many social media platforms and websites.

If you are working with fake Instagram Influencers, you will see almost no return. This is because fraudulent influencers use all sorts of tactics to make their influence and follower count look bigger than they really are. Many of them make use of:

  • Bought followers
  • Instagram pods
  • Bought content
  • Stolen content
  • Bots

Knowing what to look for can help you work with authentic Instagram influencers who will be an asset to your digital brand.

How To Spot Fake Instagram Influencers

Unless you are a social media whiz, this all can seem like a lot to navigate. Influencer marketing is more important than ever to the digital branding strategies of most top businesses. In fact, more and more is spent on influencer marketing every year.

Instagram influencers

You want to make sure you spend that wisely. How can you tell if someone has 100,000 real followers or 100,000 fake followers? With so many influencers out there, how can you tell authentic Instagram influencers from those with fake followings?

Fraudulent influencers actually have some very specific tactics and characteristics. Here are some of their most common tricks and how to spot them from a mile away.

SEE ALSO: A Cheat Sheet For Working With Social Media Influencers

Bought Social Media Followers

If an influencer has a large number of followers, it seems pretty obvious that they are popular on Instagram, right?

Not necessarily. Don’t take numbers at face value. Instead, take a closer look at their followers and the types of engagement they generate. What you find might surprise you.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to buy followers to boost your numbers on Instagram. Anyone can do this. There are numerous sites across the web where people can purchase bot-followers.

How To Spot Bot-Followers

While at a glance, these raise numbers, they are not real people and do not engage with content in a meaningful way. This is why it is important to look at the followers of any influencer you want to work with. Ask these questions as you research:

  • Do most of their followers have spammy names, such as being random combinations of letters and numbers?
  • Are the profiles of their followers blank or oddly generic?
  • Do almost none of their followers have any posts, info on their profiles, pictures, or followers?
  • Do you see a lot of accounts that have been dormant for years?

It’s important to note that even the biggest influencers will have some spammy or questionable followers. However, if that’s the majority or all of their following looks like the accounts pictured below, you are dealing with a fake.

social media

Bought or Stolen Content

You also need to look out for bought or stolen content. This is another hallmark of Instagram fraud. Many fake Instagrammers directly steal content from other bloggers or accounts and post it as their own without giving credit.

There are also sites where anyone can buy photos of everything from beautifully plated food to Instagram-worthy locations. This makes it easy to have a fake account even if you can’t create your own content.

Engagement Almost Always Gives Them Away

If you know what to look for, it can actually be quite easy to spot fake Instagram influencers. One key indicator that you are dealing with a fraud is that they have a high number of followers, but very low engagement.

While it is cheap and easy to purchase bot-followers to beef up your numbers on Instagram, bot engagement is expensive.

Look at 10 different posts from the Influencer. If they have thousands of followers, but almost no engagement on posts, that is a huge red flag.

Also, pay attention to the quality of the engagement. Genuine engagement from real accounts often involves responses specific to whatever content is being posted. Less authentic engagement can look like this:

fake Instagram influencers

If all of the comments on their posts are far between, spammy, nonsensical, repetitive, or come from dead accounts, you are dealing with a fake.

How to Spot Authentic Instagram Influencers

Knowing how to catch fake Instagram Influencers is important, but it is also important to know how to spot authentic accounts that can help grow your digital brand.

While not all of these things will hold true for every large and small influencer in every community, these signs can help to point you in the right direction. If you choose to work with an Instagram influencer, they should have the majority of these details down.

  • A Verification Badge
  • A solid account history that shows consistent and original posts
  • Proof of organic audience growth over time
  • A history of quality posts
  • High engagement on their posts
  • An engaging and complete Instagram profile
  • Examples of successful past campaigns, partnerships, and sponsorships
  • A history of promoting products and brands in a way that is consistent with your brand values
  • They conduct themselves online in a way that would reflect well on your digital brand

A Real Macro-influencer

Here is an example of a genuine high engagement post from Kylie Jenner, the world’s top Instagram influencer. It has millions of likes and the majority of the comments are unique reactions relevant to the posted content by genuine Instagrammers. The amount of engagement makes sense for someone with over 100 million followers.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kylie ✨ (@kyliejenner) on

Do not limit your digital branding strategy to macro-influencers like Kylie Jenner. Your strategy will depend on your brand values, budget, products, and services. It is more about engagement than sheer numbers.

An Authentic Macro-influencer

Buzzfeed producer Jazzmyne Jay is an example of an influencer who does not need a Kylie-Jenner sized following to consistently create effective content and have enthusiastic social media engagement.

Instagram Influencers: Not All of Them Keep it Real

While many Instagram influencers are hardworking professionals that do their best for themselves, their business partners, and their audience, that doesn’t mean that all of them are.

Don’t take social media numbers at face value. Take the time to research any influencers you want to work with. While avoiding fake Instagram influencers is important, it is also important to work with the right influencers.

Just because an influencer is genuine, doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for your digital brand.

Choose influencers you want to work with wisely. Pick genuine Instagram influencers that make sense for the social media presence you want to cultivate.

They should be a natural fit for your Instagram content strategy. Know who the up-and-coming influencers are and keep them on your radar. Be aware of any influencer scandals that could tarnish your brand’s reputation.

And above all, keep your eyes peeled for fake Instagram influencers.

Have you ever come across any fake Instagram influencers? How did you know? 

Written by
Juntae DeLane

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