However, it can be tricky to know who to trust when you're choosing an Instagram influencer for your next marketing campaign. You don't want to use an influencer who doesn't have real followers or a fully engaged audience. This would be a detriment to your marketing budget, but even worse, it could put your brand's integrity at risk.
Fortunately, there are some quick and easy methods to determine whether an account has fake followers on Instagram. Once you've collected a list of potential influencers for your next Instagram marketing campaign, take a look at some of our tips and tools for detecting fake followers or bots, so you can ensure you're only working with the best.
Rise of the Instagram Bot
In the last few years, it has become popular practice for some people to buy bots to increase their followers on social media accounts -- in January 2018, The New York Times published "The Follower Factory," to highlight this shady tactic. Essentially, someone will buy a bot, and the bot will like and comment on posts with a specific hashtag, or follow people with the hope that those people will then follow them back.
You don't want to pay an influencer if she uses a bot to collect followers. A bot might increase her follower count, but her audience probably isn't truly engaged or authentic. Plus, using an insincere influencer could throw your business's integrity into question.
To figure out if an Instagram account uses a bot, consider these five tips:
Take a look at the account's comments on other people's posts. If the comments are repeatedly generic, i.e. "Pretty pic," its a sign there's a bot behind the profile.
Check if the account has tons of followers, but terrible content. Trust your judgment -- if your influencer has 10,000 followers but only uploads below-average posts, her followers might not be legitimate.
See if after you follow the account, they unfollow you. If you follow your influencer but then she unfollows you, it could be a bot, cleaning up her follow-to-follower ratio.
Be wary if they follow you again after you don't follow them back. A bot is programmed to repeatedly follow and unfollow you, until you return the favor.
Consider them a bot if they follow thousands of accounts, but only have a few followers in return. If the ratio seems way off, its likely a bot.
Ultimately, using your judgment is the best way to determine whether an account uses a bot. If the account takes actions you can't necessarily justify, its likely because it's not a human behind the screen.
How to Conduct an Instagram Audit to Detect Fake Followers
There are a few different Instagram auditing tools out there to quickly scan your influencer's account, and provide statistics regarding their authenticity and engagement score (i.e. how often their audience actually comments or likes a post). Let's take a look at three now.
IG Audit has a nondescript user interface, but it does the trick -- for public accounts, that is. Most influencers already have a public account, in which case, you simply enter their username into IG Audit's search box and they'll provide you with an estimated real to fake follower ratio. Built by a former NASA Scientist, the tool randomly scans 200 followers -- based on those followers, it gives the Instagram account a score out of 100. For instance, I scanned Rebecca Kufrin, America's newest Bachelorette, and she received a real follower score of 93%.
FakeCheck.co analyzes Instagram accounts by collecting data regarding the account followers' engagement level. As they rationalize, "If the resulting ratio for likes and comments based on the number of follower is outside the industry standard, it is likely that the account has paid Instagram followers". The site is user-friendly, and offers additional information, such as the top ten Instagram social engagement accounts from the past 30 days. However, unlike IG Audit, you'll need to pay to unlock information. Fortunately, the cost is low, starting at only one dollar. For instance, I scanned Taylor Swift's Instagram account, but I'm unable to see average likes or comments without paying for it.
Price: $5 for 5,000 followers, $20 for 20,000 followers
Social Audit Pro is a paid service, but you get your money's worth. They offer useful analytics about other public accounts on Instagram, and also provide a cleanup tool to remove any of your followers that might've been flagged as fake or dormant. The cost is reasonable, and you can use the tool to compare your Instagram influencers and fairly determine how many people they're truly reaching and engaging.
Remember, fake followers can't become real customers, so it's critical you find influencers who can connect your business with the right people. Take the time to collect data and thoroughly examine Instagram accounts before choosing an influencer, so you know you're not inadvertently getting involved in disreputable social media tactics.
Originally published Aug 23, 2018 6:00:00 AM, updated July 12 2019