How to spot who's faking it
They say you’re the average of the company you keep, and the same is very much true for your online following. Having a strong and loyal set of followers is key to a brand’s longevity and sustainability. Building trust and loyalty, like any real life relationship takes time, consistency and effort. An effort so few have been wanting to invest in, in a bid to jump ahead and fast-forward on their success for quick wins. Instead, what they have invested in, is fake followers or fake engagement (like & comments) to give the illusion they’re bigger and better than they actually are.
What’s so bad about fake accounts?
For too long, these accounts (mainly influencers and “wannabes”) have been able to get away with their smoke screens, drawing in expensive collaborations and sponsorship deals from brands, wasting an estimated £1 billion of marketing investment with little to no return. Finally, big brands (e.g. Unilever), the marketing industry (e.g. Social Chain) and the social media platforms (e.g. Instagram) themselves are having a huge crackdown. Instagram has now blocked any third party engagement & follower apps to be used with it’s platform and is actively banning people pushing their use. It’s a huge shift in mindset on something that has been out of control for far too long.
You don’t have to be an influencer or be working with one to be affected by fraudulent activity from automated engagement and follower farms. You only have to scratch the surface and you’ll see that some of your followers may be fake profiles, others might have acquired their followers through dubious methods, or you might have automated comments on your images that make no sense “Cool pic bro!”. Sound familiar?
The thing is, even if you’ve not actively paid for fake engagement and followers, it can still do damage to your authenticity and can send up a signal for more spam to be sent your way. The strength and authenticity of your account is reflected in the quality of followers you have. A brand with a small but mighty community of 100 real and actively engaged supporters is so much more valuable than a brand with 100,000 passive accounts.
I know it’s hard not to get caught up in looking at other people’s follower numbers, but they honestly aren’t a strong indicator of anything. Rock Rose Digital actually been hovering between 2000-2100 followers on Instagram for the last month because I keep clearing out the crap.
How to spot the fakes
There’s 2 free and user-friendly tools I use regularly to help keep my clients and myself on track
TRIBERR - A great website for getting a basic snapshot into things is Triberr’s Instagram Engagement Rate Calculator. It’s great to see how well your profile is doing but the data given can raise some early warning signs.
A strong Instagram account should have an engagement rate of 3%. This tool calculates on a ratio of how many likes and comments you’ve received on your last 10 posts vs. how many followers you have. If you have under 1000 followers, it’s likely to be a higher percentage as 1 bit of engagement will have greater ratio weight. Once it levels out though, the trick is to maintaining it as you grow.
If an account has a high amount of follower numbers, but really low engagement - either they’re bad at engaging their audience properly, or they’ve boosted their follower numbers in-authentically; either by buying followers or using following & un-following tactics in large amounts, hoping they’ll be followed back. As this tool just gives us basic info and a few grey areas, you’re going to want to find out more.
IGAUDIT - To delve a little deeper, I use IGAUDIT.IO. Basic style but it works. Type in any Instagram handle and it’ll give you a “real follower percentage” as well as average like and comment values, alongside expected like and comment values.
The ‘Real Follower Percentage’ is self explanatory - the higher the better. As a rule, anything between 95-100% is great, and what you should be aiming for. 90-95% you’ve probably got a few unsavoury accounts following you, which you might want to clear out. Anything beneath 90% and there’s something not quite genuine happening.
The average likes & comments are based on all posts on the account. Like before, if an account has a high number of followers and low average engagement, in-particular comparing to what it should be under the ‘Expected’ bit, then it could be a sign of fraudulent followers. In contrast, if the average likes and comments is a lot higher than the expected values, then it could be a sign that engagement has also been purchased.
Some other warning signs
Follower spike - A sudden and dramatic increase can only really be down to two reasons; the account was named by a poignant user, or followers were bought
Dubious followers - Scrolling through their followers, are there a large number without a profile picture or who have never posted?
Overseas followers - an account with a large number of foreign followers is a huge red flag. Most sites offering fake followers get them from Asia or South America.
Post quantity - big follower numbers are built up over time, with consistent and regular posting of content. If an account only has a handful of posts but big numbers, be wary
Comments - are there a lot of generic statements ’Great Pic!’ with no authentic conversation being made, that could be a bad sign too
What my stats look like
In the spirit of complete authenticity, here’s what the RRD different sets of stats look like at the time of posting. Whilst my engagement rate on Triberr is spot on, this is based on my last 10 posts. The average engagement stats on IGAudit are currently a little low. The “advent calendar” series (Festive Fempreneur) I created actually didn’t get same level of likes and comments as normal, so it’s brought the average down. I’ve identified it, learnt from it and know what to do better for next time I approach something similar.