Fake Instagram influencers are scamming brands

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 21 August 2017
One of the fake Instagram accounts @wanderingggirl

Instagram influencer marketing is a booming industry now worth $1 billion and set to double by 2019. Brands, big and small, have been investing heavily in the space in a bid to reach younger generations – but a new study has revealed how easy it is to be scammed.

From March to July, California-based influencer marketing agency Mediakix created two profiles from scratch and secured four paid brand endorsement deals between them worth US$500 in total.

The accounts were created using stock photos, modelling snaps and a few hundred dollars spent on paying for fake followers and engagement. The fake accounts landed the endorsement deals using popular US influencer marketing platforms.

Both accounts bought up to 15,000 followers at a time – it cost between $3 and $8 to buy about 1000 followers. Instagram failed to flag the rapid growth of the account, according to Mediakix. In total, @wanderingggirl got 30,000 followers and @calibeachgirl310 got 50,000 followers in two months.

fake instagramThe @calibeachgirl310 account

The stunt aimed to highlight the issue of influencer marketing fraud.

In response, Tribe CEO Antony Svirskis assured its users the influencer marketing platform was doing its part to weed out fake followers.

On a blog post, Svirskis wrote: “Many think because anyone can download the Tribe app we might be more vulnerable. Quite the opposite. Anyone can download the app, but only influencers with the highest quality of audience can submit to a brand.”

He says Tribe scans an influencer’s social account and compares key metrics against normalised data from more than 10,000 influencer accounts to detect any signs they could be buying fake followers.

This includes identifying spikes in the number of followers, engagement velocity (whether the number of likes slowly builds or spikes) and the ratio of comments to likes.

If they find an account with abnormal activity Tribe will either flag the account or deny the user access to the platform.

While Instagram has recently cracked down on fake influencer activity, shutting down a third-party service that lets people pay to have their account automatically like and comment on photos, it has more than 700 million users and therefore cannot police everything.

Read the full report from MediaKix here.

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