Fake A Star: The Artificial Business Of Instagram Influencers
By Shawn Spence
MusicPromoToday takes a closer look at fake Instagram followers: we investigate how to spot them, why artists still strive to pay for bots, and what consequences getting fake followers can create.
There are many strategies to organically increase your social media engagement and grow the number of followers you have. Unfortunately, it’s time consuming and requires a lot of effort, creativity, and consistency.
Many Instagram users, including major artists and celebrities, decide to take a shortcut and simply buy followers or use bots to increase engagement. Bots become more advanced in an attempt to fool the social media network: with a profile picture, bio, and posts, they look like regular people. But don’t let them fool you.
It’s a common practice for celebrities and top artists to support themselves with fake followers. The recent research carried out by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) proved that celebrities worldwide, including the Kardashian family members, top musicians, actors and models have a great amount of fake Instagram followers.
The queen of purchased fans is Ellen Degeneres with over 49% of fake Instagram followers! In this top 10 you can also find stars like Ariana Grande (46%), Miley Cyrus (45%) and Katy Perry (44%).
How to spot a fake Instagram account.
The profile is usually private and has no followers. Or a lot more following than followers. They usually do this to generate at least a few dozens or hundreds of followers in return.
If the profile has no profile picture, it’s almost 95% sure it’s a fake profile. On a visual platform as Instagram, having a profile picture is simply a must.
There are no posts or only a few images that are not real photos. Bots very often download images from a network and share them with no description, so once you spot a profile like that be sure it’s a fake one.
They leave spammy and meaningless comments. Fire, hearts, and thumbs-up emojis that can be spotted all over Instagram; stay tuned, these profiles are fake.
So once we know how a fake IG account looks like, can we spot accounts who use them to grow vanity metrics?
How to spot if someone buys followers
Look at the ratio between following and followers, and how it changes every day. Bots that follow and unfollow accounts are a real plague. If someone uses them, followers drops are easily noticeable: one day the profile will have 3,5k following users, and a few days later, it will have dropped to 2,4k. If the process repeats every day, it means that bots are active out there. You can also spot the following increasing and fluctuating everyday.
If one has many of the spammy comments we have already mentioned above, you can be sure they are followed by fake profiles. Generic comments like “Love this”, “Beautiful!”, “Awesome”, and many emojis are automatically posted. High-quality engagement is more honest and conversational.
As much as fake engagement is extremely easy to notice, users still spend a lot of money on purchasing it. You might ask why? Well, let’s review a few reasons.
Why people buy fake followers
Vanity metrics matter! Let’s be honest, numbers are critical to Instagram’s success. Brands and sponsors are attracted to quantities and want their product to be shown to the biggest possible audience, which is why many influencers decide to use bots, buy followers and fake engagement. It’s a shortcut to monetize your account basically.
In simple words: it’s also an investment. According to Hypebeast, celebrities like Kim Kardashian with millions of followers earn up to $300,000 for a single sponsored post, while other top fashion influencers are said to earn around $12,000 for each product placement. Meanwhile, influencers who want to increase their social presence need to spend only $16 for 1000 followers on Instagram.
Roberto Cavazos, a University of Baltimore professor and economist in the Business of Fashion report, admits that buying followers is an investment that brings revenue but is also dangerous for branding, “There are significant further indirect costs — notably erosion of trust and potential brand impact,” he explains.
Because of the algorithm, Instagram decides what to place at the top of the feeds. It means that if a post gets a lot of engagement within the first few hours, it will be shown to more people as it seems to be interesting and engaging. Bots step in and create fake engagement increases, so more real users can see the post in the feed. Spot influencers asking people to type words letter by letter or inviting followers to comment more than once on a post.
Last but not least: competition. Instagram’s influencer market has grown enormously in the past few years and reached over $2 billion industry in 2018. No surprise that many want to snatch a bit of it, become Insta famous and fake followers seem like a great start to some.
Instagram is obviously not OK with what is happening. Curators and developers are fighting with bots that create fake profiles and users who decide to purchase them.
What are the consequences of buying fake followers
It destroys your insights. Buying fake followers will screw up your metrics immediately and you will not be able to plan your organic growth activities, or even find out who your real audience is, or use it while setting up ads.
The Cut recently published a piece about a user who described experiences of supporting accounts with bought follows, “My follower demographic went from mostly women in Chicago, to being 60 percent foreign men between 18 and 24. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re trying to market yourself as having a certain niche, it could make a difference,” she confesses.
Once Instagram finds out that you buy likes, comments or followers they will be immediately removed from your profile. It will cost you losing the credibility that is essential for marketers who look for influencers to work with.
If you think that numbers drops are bad, imagine being shadowbanned, which means that your content won’t appear on anyone’s feed unless they intentionally go to your profile and view the post. It’s a punishment for using engagement bots.
In a more serious case, Instagram can permanently block your username with no possibility to recreate your account.
In the age of Instagram influencers, many think that having a bunch of followers is a must to succeed in marketing. A report by cybersecurity firm Cheq shows that fake fans will cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019 alone, and in 2020 this number is predicted to grow.
If you are a beginning influencer or a marketing specialist who runs your company’s social media, remember that by using bots you are sabotaging your own marketing strategy. Bought engagement never brings real results in business.
If you want to grow your audience organically, make sure to check out what we offer at MusicPromoToday. From customized Instagram Influencer Campaigns to content and visual creation, to execution with real results, everything to bring loyal fans and valuable engagement to your profile.
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