4 Influencer Metrics to Check to Spot Fake Followers
If you’ve ever done influencer marketing, you’ve likely heard about fake followers. Or, even worse, maybe you’ve run into them yourself. Whatever your experience, one thing’s for certain: marketers want to avoid fake followers at all costs.
Fake followers are accounts created by services and bots to give the impression of a large following. But, these fake accounts aren’t actually real people, and they don’t engage (or at least, not with your brand).
Social media influencers can buy fake followers quite easily, so it’s not uncommon to see. Thankfully, there are some ways to detect fake followers. The truth lies in the data, and you just need to know where to look.
This article is a quick-start guide to spotting fake followers so you don’t end up wasting your investment in your influencer marketing campaigns. Let’s look at a few places where you can spot fake followers.
Follower growth over time
The most obvious place to look for fake followers is in follower growth. Take a look at the last 12 months of growth. Is the growth steady? Is it exponential? This would suggest that the growth is organic, which means those followers were acquired via legitimate means. The followers most likely found the influencer through their content, enjoyed their profile, and therefore followed them.
On the other hand, do you see jumps in followers for days or weeks at a time? Or large spikes in growth? If growth looks odd in any way, it could be a sign of fake followers.
Before you completely discard the influencer, check to see if they went viral or hosted a giveaway around the date of the spike. If so, those are both legitimate reasons for sudden boosts in followers. If not, those spikes might show when the influencer bought batches of fake followers.
In this chart, growth looks organic. But we’d maybe want to check what kicked off more rapid growth around May 2020.
If an influencer’s engagement rate is very low, it could also be a sign of fake followers. These bots generally don’t engage with influencer content. And engagement rate is a function of total interactions compared to the number of followers. Therefore, despite raising follower count, fake followers actually drive down the engagement rate.
Influencer marketing software can analyze engagement rate and compare it with the averages for that network and follower range. The AI can also suggest when engagement looks suspiciously high.
As a note, influencers can buy fake engagements, too. Compare an influencer’s engagement rate to their peers on the same network and with similar numbers of followers. For example, don’t compare the engagement rates of Youtube influencers with Instagram influencers, as there are different ways to engage on those platforms and therefore different engagement averages.
If your comparison yields a big difference between the average and a specific influencer’s engagement rate, they might have falsified it. Dig deeper into their audience to see if you get a sense of its authenticity.
Look at the audience demographics of the influencer’s followers, like location, language, age, gender, and interests. Influencers don’t have to have everything in common with their audience, but look out for suspicious demographic breakdowns.
For example, a London-based influencer has 9K followers. But, over 80% of those followers are from the United States. However, the influencer has engagements from Brazil, Russia, and Malaysia. Nothing here adds up, so these location demographics could be showing us that the influencer has fake followers and fake engagements.
An audience location analysis from an influencer marketing software. This influencer is Russian, so it makes sense that she’d have a majority of her followers from Russia, and the rest from neighboring China.
The same goes for other demographics as well. If you see that a majority of the audience speaks a language the influencer doesn’t, those could be fake followers. Or if you find that the influencer’s profile is dedicated to food, but most of their followers are interested in video games, it could be another sign of shady tactics behind the scenes.
Finally, look at audience authenticity. This is a measurement of the number of accounts that are likely to be fake. See which percentage of the audience appears to consist of real followers, and which looks like it’s made up of suspicious followers who may be bots.
An audience authenticity analysis from an influencer software. This influencer has just under 6% of followers who look suspicious. It’s normal for influencers to have a small percentage of suspicious followers, but be weary when you see 15% suspicious and higher.
While you can perform this scan manually by evaluating audience profiles on social media, it’s much better (and quicker) to do it with assistance from AI. Use influencer marketing software to quickly assess what portion of the influencer’s audience might be fake.
Spotting fake followers is critical if you want to run a successful influencer marketing campaign. The results of your campaign hinge on you finding the right influencer for the job, and having an authentic, engaged audience is part of that. So make sure you understand what you’re looking for so that you can see fake followers in the data behind influencer profiles.