How to spot fake Instagram followers

How to spot fake Instagram Followers

When it comes to your competitors on Instagram, comparing yourself by looking at vanity metrics, like the number of followers they have, may eat away at your confidence.  Thoughts may creep into your head that maybe they are doing better than you, simply because they have a large following. While there are a lot of genuine businesses out there who have built an amazing brand following with strong engagement and customer loyalty, the ones that raise suspicion are the new kids on the block who pop up and all of a sudden have 5K followers after their first three posts. BS radar: Activated.

We really shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people/businesses on Instagram because nothing is ever what it seems. A few years ago I would screenshot “dream bods” and save them as my mobile phone wallpaper. These days, I take the content I am fed with a grain of salt. When it comes to bods on Instagram, I am now conscious that angles, lighting and in some cases, FaceTune, assist in creating that aspirational physique. People legitimately rent an hour or so in private jet, stationary on a runway, just so they can upload a photo to Instagram, pretending they are on their way to an exotic location living the #goodlife and are #tooblessedtobestressed.

There are so many ways strangers can pull the wool over our eyes on social media, and a common one is buying followers to make themselves/their brand appear more popular than they really are. I warned in a previous post the need to be aware of people posing as influencers with tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of “fake” followers, to get free product or a pay cheque. I find it really easy to spot these accounts now, so I thought I’d share some of my tips for spotting fake Instagram followers.

Why do people buy followers?

Usually the reason people buy Instagram followers is to make themselves appear more popular. As humans, we are influenced by popularity, and what other people are buying, doing, eating, believing in. We take cues from other people on how to act as a sort of short cut to living and surviving. It’s instinctual from our hunter-gatherer days. Those who banded together, survived. It can make their brand or business appear more trusted, I mean, if 40,000 other people follow them, whatever they’re selling must be good, right? Maybe, but not necessarily.

How do I spot an account with fake followers?

When my fake follower detector starts softly beeping over a profile, it’s usually due to these first two giveaway signs:

  1. They have a large following, and not many posts. For example, a brand new business that has just opened up.
  2. Their pics are getting very low engagement (likes and comments) in relation to the number of followers they have. If someone has 143K followers, and they are getting 11 likes on a photo, my suspicions are raised.

So, with my fake follower detector beeping a little more aggressively, I dive into their follower list to stalk out some fake profiles, and if the account is rife with bought followers, it usually doesn’t take long to spot them. This is what I look for:

No profile image (examples below)

Weird Instagram handle that doesn’t make sense (example below, can also contain a lot of numbers)

How to spot fake Instagram accounts - Little Palm Creative Co. - Gold Coast Marketing

Then, when you click onto the profile, your suspicions can quickly be confirmed. These are the tell-tale signs:

How to spot fake Instagram followers - Little Palm Creative Co. - Gold Coast Marketing
How to spot fake Instagram followers - Little Palm Creative Co. - Gold Coast Marketing
How to spot fake Instagram followers - Little Palm Creative Co. - Gold Coast Marketing

If you’re not seeing glaringly obvious signs that your competitor, potential collaborator or influencer has purchased followers via their follower list, (using my refined detective techniques above) but you’re still suspicious, you can also use tools like Social Blade to look for abnormalities like a huge spike in new followers. If an account has suddenly jumped 5,000 followers in a day, it’s likely they paid for those new followers.

If you suspect that a potential collaborator or influencer has bought followers, I’d avoid engaging with them for any promotional opportunities. There are plenty of genuine people who will do a much better job promoting your brand to their audience, provided it aligns with their values and content strategy.

Want to know more about working with influencers? Click here to read my blog on the Most Common Mistakes Businesses Make With Influencers.


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Tamara Johansen Little Palm Creative Co. - Gold Coast Marketing and web Design


Gold Coast Website Designer

Hi! I’m Tamara, the person behind Little Palm Creative and the girl behind the keyboard.

Little Palm Creative first launched in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast in 2017 and has been providing freelance website design support ever since. I specialise in Wordpress and Shopify website design and redesign. 


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