Using influencers on social media to propel businesses is the fastest growing trend in marketing. It’s relatively easy, creative, cheap, and quick compared to traditional marketing strategies like TV or print campaigns. It’s pretty dope. Unfortunately though, when there’s money to be made somewhere, snaky people will find a way to find it and ruin it for the rest of us. The snakes I’m referring to are Instagram users posing as influencers with a following full of bots. According to market research, upwards of 24 million Instagram accounts could be spam.

Though Instagram is trying their best to regularly sweep the platform to drain the swamp of these frauds, they seem to be sprouting quicker than they can be exterminated. This is a big problem for both brands and (real) influencers engaging in social media marketing. For brands, you may be tricked into spending money on someone who won’t deliver any real results. For legit influencers, these posers are taking away from your business and may even ruin the chances of a brand working with an influencer again.

Lucky for us though, fake Instagram influencers are about as easy to spot as fake boobs. I’m looking at you Kylie. Here’s how to spot a fake Instagram influencer.

  1. High follower count, low engagement rate

The biggest mistake a brand can make when looking for an influencer is to focus solely on follower count. High follower count does not equate to high credibility. Many influencers, including some of the real ones, have purchased followers at one point or another. While this creates the illusion that they are popular and engaging, they actually lack organic influence and growth.

Fake Instagram accounts often lack engagement in both directions. Not only do they not interact with their followers, their posts don’t generate the type of buzz that other influencers might get. A good rule of thumb is to avoid accounts that have less than a 8% engagement rate (if you’re not sure how to calculate that, check out our article on ideal engagement rates and how to measure them).

If an account has 100k followers but is only getting 100 likes per post, chances are they’re faking it. While they can certainly trick you further by buying likes too, try monitoring new posts to see if their likes come in linearly or if the likes spike and then stop completely.

  1. Video views

Video views are a huge tell of whether an influencer is legit or not. While fake influencers usually aren’t dumb enough to post videos knowing they’ll get relatively low views, some are just not that smart. Just like with the likes, if someone has 100k followers and are only getting 15 views on their videos, avoid them. Better yet, do us all a favour and report them.

  1. Spam comments

Frauds know that brands look for likes and comments to determine how engaged their followers are. Many of them will not only buy likes but will buy comments as well. A good sign that these comments are fake is if they repeat themselves (or aren’t unique) and have no personality or relevance to the photo. If every comment is “cool!”, “awesome post”, or “nice!”, chances are it’s fake.

  1. Quality and quantity of posts

An easy way to tell if an influencer is fake is to simply look at their feed. If they’re either not posting often or are posting garbage content (and still getting hundreds or thousands of likes), they’re lying. If their feed is filled with low-quality, meaningless content, there’s no way all those people are liking it. Skip over them.

  1. Zero presence on other social media platforms

It is very uncommon that a real influencer has a large following on one social media platform and doesn’t on others. It happens, but it’s rare. Most legit influencers aren’t on Instagram alone but have blogs, Youtube channels, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. If the influencer you’re considering has no presence on anything but Instagram, there’s a good chance they’re as real as King Kylie’s lips. Sorry girl, you’re just such an easy target.


While some fakers fake better than others, most fraudulent Instagram accounts are pretty easy to sniff out. If you come upon one, do your good deed for the day and report them for being spam. Don’t let a few bad seeds ruin it for the good ones.


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