The Wild West of Influencer Marketing Still Exists

A fairly recent investigation has proven, once again that fake Instagrammers can – and do trick brands on a regular basis. The wild west of the influencer marketing realm still exists. Read on to hear the shocking story of brands that have been duped by fake animated Instagrammers. Also, learn how to avoid fake influencers – and how to continue to ensure your brand’s influencer marketing strategy optimises your influencer budget spend.

fake influencers

The Fake Influencer Investigation

A US marketing agency launched the initial investigation find out whether it was possible for fake influencers to secure sponsorship deals with brands.

Two fake Instagram accounts were created for the investigation. The first was a fake fashion and lifestyle Instagrammer. The content from the account came entirely from a one-day shoot.

The second account was a fake travel influencer profile. This account was brimming with arty landscapes and travel destinations from around the world – but most of the images were stock photos!

Once establishing the two Instagram profiles, the company sought to buy fake followers for the account. The team paid between $3 and $8 for an average of 1,000 followers – a small price to pay for a significant number!

To avoid being flagged as suspicious by Instagram, this was initially limited to 1,000 followers a day. However, eventually, the two fake accounts were able to rack up around 15,000 new followers a day! In fact, in just 2 months, the fake Instagrammers had become well-established accounts. The travel account had 30,000 followers, whilst the fashion account had around 50,000.

But the story doesn’t end there… The agency was also able to purchase engagement for the fake Instagrammers- in the form of comments and likes. 1,000 likes cost between $4 and $9. Meanwhile, a comment costs just 12 cents!

In no time at all, the company were able to match the fake influencers’ engagement levels to the follower count. They were able to buy 500 to 2,500 likes, and 10 to 50 comments, per photo.

How the Fake Instagrammers Tricked Top Brands

But the creation of these animated influencer accounts, which seemed incredibly legitimate was just the beginning of the investigation.

Once the accounts had 10,000 followers, the agency was able to quickly sign the fake influencers up to sponsorship deals. The fake influencers worked on influencer marketing campaigns with a number of well-known swimsuit companies, food and beverage firms, and alcohol brands.

The fake influencer profiles benefitted hugely from these deals. In addition to freebies, the fake Instagrammers were offered monetary compensation from the brands. Of course, all of the brands would have been bitterly disappointed with their collaborations. The marketers at these brands would have been expecting a substantial return on their investment. But all they got were fake influencers, whose campaigns achieved little to nothing for the company. The ‘influencers’ had no reputation or experience, and the profiles themselves were false automated accounts with little to no genuine engagement from consumers!


fake influencers


What we can Learn from these Fake Influencers

It shows that anyone can make a quick entry into influencer marketing, exploiting the industry and the brands in the process.

This investigation has shed light on how quick and easy it can be for brands to be tricked. This, in turn, relates to a wider problem in the influencer marketing industry (which we have addressed with our Chromo-Influencer® identification service), fake followers and fake engagement.

Instagram themselves have stated in the past that they are working hard to combat this such activity. They consider fake influencers to be spam accounts and are well aware of the problem.

Instagram mentioned that they have a number of teams that work to specifically identify and remove fake influencers from the platform. This was proven when Instagram closed down Instagram automation service, Instagress. Nonetheless, there are still hundreds of services that allow people to build social media accounts through disingenuine automation.

With the authenticity of the influencer marketing industry – not to mention brands’ livelihood – on the line, we think something bigger needs to be done…


Optimise your Influencer Spend through Due-diligence

To optimise your influencer marketing spend, you need to know which influencers are the real deal. But that’s not all. You also need to know which influencers are likely to be more effective than others in your influencer marketing campaigns (prior to using them). After all, certain people in the real world are more influential than others, and the same goes for influencers.

Fake Instagrammers are a problem for the industry, but it’s not something to be too concerned with. You just need to be more aware of the issue. Be diligent when considering your influencer marketing strategy, and ensure your brand only collaborates with the very best influencers. This is where a well-thought-out industry marketing strategy – supported by genuinely effective influencers can be really helpful, in ensuring the long-term success of your marketing campaigns.


To find out more about Chromo-Influencers and how they provide a strong solution to the dilemma, get in touch here. You can also check out our blog for more information on how to avoid fake influencers, in addition to influencer marketing news and tips, that will ensure your brand gets the very best out of your influencer marketing efforts.


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