Influencer Marketing: How to Identify Fake Influencers

The truth is, there's a lot of questionable traffic out there these days. And marketers are catching on.
Redde Payments
7 min to read

Influencer Marketing: How to Identify Fake Influencers

If you own a small business, the idea of working with an influencer has probably crossed your mind. Influencers aren’t just big brands - but instead, they are individuals who have a voice in a specific industry that consumers turn to for guidance or advice. No matter what kind of business you own, working with an influencer can help you gain brand awareness and sales. However, when not done properly or without knowing what to look for in an influencer, you can quickly drain your funds with no return.

This article is going to cover everything you need to know about how to identify fake influencers. Fake influencers are rising in popularity and if you're not careful, it can end up costing your business. Once you can identify the right kind of influencer, you can proudly enjoy the benefits of a great partnership! Let's get started.


What’s an “influencer” anyway?

An influencer is an individual who has successfully established credibility within their industry or niche. They tend to have a large, committed following that engages with all their pushed content. This means that influencers have the power to support and grow brands with sometimes just one post. This can be through paid endorsements, pop-up events or professional reviews. It’s worth noting that there are different kinds of influencers that specialize in different audiences and results. You can see the different types of influencers below:

Redde Influencer Infographic

How to spot a fake influencer?

The first step in spotting a fake influencer is to accept that there are fake influencers. Most individuals tricked by fake influencers are those that had no idea it was even possible. However, we are here to tell you that it’s very possible and very real! In fact, nearly half of all influencers started as imposters. The saying “fake it till you make it” is incredibly practiced in the influencer world. Without further adieu, here’s what you can look out for to spot a fake influencer:

Fake Influencer

Fake Followers:

Let’s check out the above image of @calibeachgirl310’s Instagram profile. You can see how this particular influencer has great photos that are high quality and consistent. You probably noticed the number of followers that she has too. Just over 50.8k to be exact. An influencer of this size can easily gain several sponsorship opportunities because of the amount of followers they have. The catch? This influencer isn’t real. Well sure, her pictures are real and she is, of course, a real person. But this is a fake account created by Mediakix for the pure purpose of showing how easy it is to create fake accounts. All it takes is some great photos (sometimes even stock photos) to create the look and feel of a real person. But how did this fake profile gain so much popularity? Well, that’s fake too. They bought fake followers like most of your well-followed influencers online. We aren’t saying all influencers are fake, but a majority of real influencers have bought fake followers at some point during their growth. Some influencers even use fake followers as maintenance after losing followers over the course of a year. Regardless, fake followers are part of the influencing community but it’s hardly covered.

Buying Followers

The Buying Process:

Fake influencers can gain fame with the stroke of their keyboard, into Google. If you search for “buying social media followers” on any web browser, you can see endless results about where you can buy your following from. As you can see (left), you can buy any amount of followers for a pretty reasonable fee. Buying 100 followers for only $2.97 can be a great deal for someone looking to gradually increase their following. Once these followers are bought, over the next couple days the influencer will slowly gain the amount they purchased. This is so that they won’t trigger any suspicion from the social media platform by rapidly gaining followers. Once the followers are all accounted for - that’s it. Pretty easy, huh? Fake followers can lead to another hot topic which is known as engagement rate.

Engagement Rate:

Engagement rate is one of the best identifiers when it comes to finding a fake influencer. Engagement rates are the metrics used to track how involved your audience is with your content. If you’re a true influencer, your engagement rate should be extremely high. However, if you’re an imposter, you will tend to have a large following base with little to no engagement.

For example, if you see an influencer with a large following base but with little to no likes or comments, something is amiss. If you have thousands of followers, then you should expect to see hundreds of likes and comments. If you have hundreds of followers, you should expect to see at least 50 engagements. Of course, this metric doesn't fit for everyone. But for someone that wants to be identified as an “influencer”, their numbers need to match. The success of an influencer is based on their ability to engage audiences and seek their interest. If the individual you are looking to partner with your brand lacks the power to capture your potential buyers, then you should consider looking elsewhere.

Engagement Rate

To find the engagement rate of an influencer, you need to add average likes by average comments and divide that by the number of followers they have. Or if you want to use a handy site that can do all of this for you, check out MightyScout. MightyScout lets you look up any influencer with just their handle/username and it’s free to use! Just type in the influencer's username to gain valuable insights as to how their account performs. You can see an example below of the type of results you would see.

Social Media Metrics

For this example, you can see that the influencer's engagement rate is at about 0.9%, with a 1:28 comment:like ratio. MightyScout will give you all the figures you need to discover if an influencer has a decent engagement score or not. After all, if an influencer does their job correctly, they should have a big audience that can’t wait to engage with their content. It should be easy to spot a good influencer when keeping engagement rate in mind.

* Engagement Rate Ratings:

  • 1% - 3% = average/good engagement
  • 3.5% - 6% = high engagement rate
  • Above 6% = very high engagement rate

Google Results:

If you’re trying to determine how legitimate an influencer is, Google never fails! Most influencers, even micro-influencers, should have at the very least other social media accounts. Larger influencers often have fan pages, sometimes even websites or articles they have been featured in. Try Googling your influencer's name and see what pops up. If you Google their name and nothing shows up, this should be a huge red flag. If your influencer doesn’t show up, they're most likely not what you're looking for to represent your brand. True influencers use as many channels as they can to gain a following and grow there profit. Most of the time, they will use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok to attract new viewers for the potential opportunity to make more money. After all, influencers get paid based on ads, likes and views. The more channels they have, the more money they make. So if you can’t find your influencer in more than one place, this should be a big concern.

Fake Lifestyles:

Fake lifestyles are quickly trending and becoming easier to achieve. Influencers will often fake possessions, experiences and lifestyle attributes to make their followers think they are legitimate. This can be through photoshopping backgrounds, adding luxurious items and even editing the way they look.

Fake Influencers

It can be tricky to spot fake lifestyles. It's pretty easy for new influencers to find effective editing software. This software is what they use to transform their entire image. But first understanding that there's more to this than meets the eye can help you determine the legitimacy of these influencers. If you see an influencer who appears to live a wildly wealthy lifestyle with no online presence outside of social media - then this can be a huge red flag. Wealth doesn’t inherently make someone a fraud. But there are businesses out there that focus solely on faking these lifestyles for small-time influencers to help them gain a high following. The main point is to realize that just because an influencer appears to live a lavish lifestyle, doesn’t mean that they are automatically successful. Your decision to work with certain influencers should be based on their following, testimonials, presence and reputation. Not by how they project themselves on social media.

Lack of Knowledge:

Real influencers are fountains of knowledge or at least ideas. They typically work with partners on a regular basis, making it easy for them to identify what they can offer and how they can meet their needs. If you contact an influencer and they are finding it rather difficult to describe what type of content they create, this should be of concern. It’s an influencer’s job to understand the needs of their potential clients and to determine if they can provide value. If you're discover that they are providing very lengthy answers that leave you with an unclear picture, you might want to start looking elsewhere. Knowing their own abilities is a very basic part of this industry. If you're experiencing an influencer who lacks this basic knowledge, they are either an imposter looking to make a quick buck or an influencer in the infancy of their career. Either way, they might not be fit for your brand.

What every influencer should know:

  • What kind of content they make
  • Who their target audience is
  • Where their target audience is located (both online and geographically)
  • Profile metrics (engagement rate, comment:like ratio, growth rate, etc.)
  • How to use social media analytic tools
  • What other brands they have worked with
  • Several different ways to market your products or services
  • Original ideas
  • How much they charge along with all policies/terms
  • How long they will keep sponsored content publicly available

In conclusion

Influencer marketing can open up doors for your business that you never thought could be possible. In order to keep your followers engaged and growing, it’s important to change your marketing strategy and include opportunities that can meet their expectations. Influencer marketing is a great tool for any business that sells products or services. We hope you have found this article to be both helpful and informative. It’s important to understand that there are risks with any paid marketing efforts. However, you can minimize these risks by staying on your toes when it comes to potential fraud. Now that you understand what fake influencers are and what to lookout for, you can confidently go out there and explore new opportunities!

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