It’s fair to say that at our influencer marketing agency, PMYB, we’ve been preaching about the problems surrounding illegitimate followers for years. And it seems like major brands are becoming fed up with celebrity influencers that are purchasing fake followers, including Unilever!

In fact, Unilever chief marketing officer, Keith Weed is taking a huge step forward in clamping down on it. The company’s vowing to take a stand against the purchasing of fake followers on social media. And it’s going to become a major part of their influencer marketing strategy as they look for a more transparent future.

This is huge news for the industry. Unilever is a transnational consumer goods giant and owns the world’s biggest brands. And now, the company is taking a clear stand against social media’s tricksters and their fraudulent actions.

In a wider sense, this seems to be part of a trend. More and more brands are waking up to the use of fake followers – and this is definitely good news. The use of fake followers on social media is something that every brand should know about – and learn how to avoid. On the brighter side, it’s not so doom and gloom for brands looking to continue their influencer marketing efforts!


The issue of fake followers in the influencer marketing industry is avoidable. Analysing influencers against offline and online data points that contribute to influence will enable you to get a true reflection of the effectiveness of an influencer, thus a much higher ROI.

(PMYB Managing Director, Rohan Midha)



The Use of Fake Followers

The influencer marketing industry is now a billion-dollar market that’s taking the world by storm. Top brands from Apple to Coca-Cola are increasingly choosing to promote their products through celebrities and social media influencers.

Top social media influencers can really benefit financially from teaming up with these global brands on influencer marketing campaigns. And typically, the bigger their following, the higher the fee! But herein lies the problem… This encourages certain influencers to increase their follower count falsely and unethically – by choosing to purchase fake followers.

These followers are typically ‘bots’ or software applications, with the ability to ‘like’ or comment on posts. In this way, these bots function as fake followers – giving an impression of popularity and engagement that is ultimately false.

And of course, this practice is not remotely positive for the industry. Fake followers erode trust between all parties in the influencer marketing industry – ultimately decreasing the value of some influencer marketing campaigns…


fake followers


Fake Followers Mislead Consumers and Cheat Brands

Influencers that use fake followers destroy the influencer marketing industry’s reputation, in the eyes of both consumers and brands.

They give the impression that an influencer is popular and help to promote particular brands and products in a positive light. But ultimately, these reputations are all false, fuelled by paid-for, fake followers. This ultimately undermines the value and transparency of influencer marketing as a whole.

And that’s not all: fake followers trick brands, too. After all, brands invest significant sums of money in order to work with influencers that appear to have huge followings. But if most of that following is made up of fake followers, brands are unlikely to see that investment pay off – meaning brands are really victims of fake followers. This stirs up q further problem for the influencer marketing industry, as it will suggest that the strategy is not lucrative. (Despite that being far from the truth!)



The Problem with Fake Followers

As Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed points out, this means that a portion of social media influencers and celebrities are damaging the industry as a whole. Weed says:


‘There are lots of great influencers out there, but there are a few bad apples spoiling the barrel and the trouble is, everyone goes down once the trust is undermined.’

(Keith Weed, Unilever CMO)


We definitely agree with Unilever’s view of fake followers. They are spoiling the magic of influencer marketing. For this reason, it’s also important that brands realise how prevalent the use of fake followers is.

This is something that we at PMYB know only too well. Over a year ago, we conducted a small research study, setting out to discover how widespread this kind of social media fraud is – and the results were startling. The results ultimately revealed that unfortunately, for many influencers, buying followers is their go-to method for competing in the industry. In fact, we discovered that 63% of 200 influencers admitted to buying fake followers, interactions or being a part of groups where disingenuous comments are exchanged.

For these reasons, it’s vital that every brand is aware of the situation with fake followers on social media – and equally, that they know what steps to take to deal with it…



Unilever Take A Stand

First of all, we can certainly all take a leaf out of Unilever’s book – and take a stand against the use of fake followers on social media.

Keith Weed at Unilever is pledging that from now on, the company will refrain from working with celebrity influencers who buy followers.

Unilever will also be focusing on working with platforms that prioritise the eradication of social media fraud, and that encourage transparency on social media.

What’s more, this news is just the tip of the iceberg. The company has been taking similar actions in the lead-up to this announcement. Recently, Weed threatened to pull investments from top social media platforms like Google and Facebook. This was due to the platforms’ failure to remove ‘toxic’ online content and improve consumer trust.

It’s therefore clear to see that the consumer goods giant Unilever is working hard to secure a positive future for the social media marketing industry as a whole.

As a result, this is great news for the influencer marketing industry – but Unilever’s actions are just the first steps.


Avoid Fake Followers and Enjoy the Results!

It’s now clear that avoiding working with fake influencers helps to make your brand’s campaigns, and the influencer marketing industry as a whole, more transparent and effective. For this reason, your brand should strive to work with influencers who are the real deal – and to avoid collaborating with the tricksters at all costs.

Achieving this all comes down to creating a well-thought-out and effective influencer marketing strategy. For instance, we recommend carefully vetting any influencers you use. At PMYB we conducted a study which enabled us to distinguish what exactly makes certain influencers more influential than others. We went onto discover that 46 key components contribute to the actual influence of an influencer. In this day and age, and even in the last several years, simply picking influencers who ‘look the part’ is, and has not been enough. 

Also, we have personally developed close-knit, long-lasting relationships with the most influential collaborators built on trust and communication.

In the same vein, we also advocate maintaining regular contact with your influencers – something that can be achieved with a dedicated influencer marketing budget


fake followers


Find Out More

Fake followers are clearly an issue and there’s no point acting like it doesn’t exist. And that’s why we developed our own method of avoiding it. Get in touch here to find out more about Chromo-Influencers® – including some of the incredible work these top influencers have produced to date. 

And, while you’re here, don’t forget to also check out our blog. Keep up to date with the latest news on fake influencers and find out how other brands are taking steps against fake follower activity, just like Unilever!

Learn More


More Relevant Articles

fake ads

Instagrammers are posting Fake Ads to Build Credibility

| Influencer Marketing Fraud | No Comments
Some Instagrammers are reportedly producing Instagram posts, featuring the products of leading brands. However, the problem is that they are calling them sponsored ads, despite them not being paid by…
fake instagrammers

How Fake Instagrammers Tricked Brands. Due diligence is needed!

| Influencer Marketing Fraud | No Comments
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…
fake influencers influencer fraud

Fake Influencers Lead to Fake Success – The Dangers of Influencer Fraud

| Influencer Marketing Fraud | No Comments
Much of the success of influencer marketing is due to the quality of the influencers utilised. As we all know, not everyone with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of…
fake bot automation - amazon

Instagram plan to eradicate fake bot automation services

| Influencer Marketing Fraud, Influencer Marketing News, Social Media News | No Comments
Instagram Bot Automation Crackdown Instagram are moving quickly as they hope to keep conversation and interactivity on the platform as genuine as possible. Fake bot automation services have been popular…


Join the discussion One Comment

  • John Mitchell says:

    Very interesting piece. I understand fake followers is an issue and it seems that you guys at PMYB have hit the nail on the head with your strategy. Hats off!!

Leave a Reply

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons