Influencer Fraud: How to Spot Fake Followers and Find Authentic Creators

Lynne Clement

Monday Apr 11th, 2022

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Influencer Fraud: How to Spot Fake Followers and Find Authentic Creators

We’ve all been there. Scouring the web for reviews and recommendations before clicking “submit order.” Sure, we could look to the brand for inspiration. But information coming from a brand doesn’t feel as genuine as it does when it comes from a real person.


New research finds that only 34% of consumers have trust in brands, but a whopping 93% of consumers trust the recommendations of other people—even if it’s someone they don’t know. As a result, brands of all sizes have turned to influencers to bring authenticity to their marketing campaigns.


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However, as influencer spending has increased so has the number of fake followers and fraudulent accounts. In fact, fake followers cost advertisers $1.3 billion in 2019. With influencer marketing spending projected to reach $15 billion in 2022, fraudulent activity is expected to reach new heights.



Without speaking to a real audience, you won’t be able to drive real results. Partnering with the wrong creators will not only drain your budget but can also seriously tarnish your brand’s reputation and customers' trust.

While spotting fake accounts and finding authentic creators isn’t always easy, there are a few potential red flags to look out for when vetting influencers. By understanding how to spot a fake account, you can ensure that your brand is partnering with the best creators to drive the best results.


How to Spot Fake Influencers

How to Spot a Fake Influencer

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Unusual Follower-to-Engagement Ratio  

If you come across an influencer with 100,000 followers but they’re only averaging about 100 likes per post, this is a telltale sign that their following is likely fake.

Brands often view engagement as the golden KPI simply because it’s hard to fake. Remember that engagement takes into account a combination of several social interactions on a platform including likes, comments, shares, and more—helping you see beyond vanity metrics such as followers. By looking at engagement rates, you should get a better sense of how, or if, an influencer’s audience is interacting with their content.

On the other hand, engagement rates tend to decrease as follower count increases. Therefore, it’s best to look at industry benchmarks to decide whether the influencer’s metrics are below the industry standard.


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Quality of Engagements

Even if an influencer has a great engagement rate, that doesn’t mean they’re receiving quality engagements.

So, what do we mean by quality engagements? Well, bots these days are sophisticated. They’re able to interact on the platform much like a real account, meaning they can like and comment on posts the same way any other user can. However, comments from a bot are typically easy to spot as they appear spammy. Random strings of emojis or generic one-word comments are clear indicators of bots.

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This isn’t to say that a real user wouldn’t also use emojis and make simple comments, but the comments should at least appear relevant to the post. If the comments don’t quite match the post’s content, you should view this as a potential warning sign.


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Influencer History

Unless they’re a celebrity, it’s unlikely for an influencer to have hundreds of followers one day and thousands the next.

Building a quality following takes time, and this will likely be reflected in the influencer’s history. Be wary if an influencer goes from having a small to large following in a short period of time. You should pay close attention to their account growth between six months to a few years. If there appears to be a large growth spurt or strong decline within a few months or even a few weeks, they may have purchased fake followers. 

To learn more about our services and access our creator network, contact our team to schedule a strategy call.


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Audience Quality

While large accounts are highly susceptible to bots, this isn’t to say that smaller accounts aren’t.

All accounts are susceptible to bots to a certain degree, so finding a 100% real following may be harder than you think.

apexdrop influencer fraud blog image2 343x271However—much like engagement quality—you should pay close attention to the audience quality.

  • Are all the followers appearing to come from one location?
  • Do the follower accounts have minimal to no posts?
  • Does the account follow thousands of accounts but have few followers themselves?

These are all things to check when vetting the quality of an influencer’s following. 

authentic creators

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1. Focus on Micro Influencers

The old saying “less is more” certainly rings true when it comes to influencer marketing. Micro influencers are currently generating a lot of buzz among marketers.



With their highly engaged audiences, cost-effective rates, and access to more niche communities, focusing on micro influencers is one of the best ways to combat fraudulent accounts. 

Not to mention, going smaller with your campaign ambassadors can help you test out creators with audiences you wouldn’t normally target without significantly draining your budget.



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2. Utilize Authenticity Tools

Thankfully, there are an array of tools and software that now exist to help gauge an influencer’s overall authenticity.




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However, much like any piece of technology, these solutions aren’t perfect. These tools should be used to assist your decision-making and not as your single source of truth for finding influencers. Making sure that all the boxes are checked will require some human touch and a bit of manual labor.



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3. Leverage an Influencer Marketing Agency

Don't assume that working with an agency to select and manage high quality influencers is more costly than your in-house approach.  With the help of automated systems and processes, some influencer agencies can save you time and budget.



An agency will not only have access to a variety of authenticity tools, but they also have the expertise for spotting and working with quality influencers. 

Plus, if your team is looking to have the responsibility of managing influencers taken off its plate, an influencer marketing agency will free up your team to focus on other priorities.

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Finding Authentic Creators with ApexDrop

ApexDrop is the leading influencer marketing agency in the US providing end-to-end influencer marketing services. From finding and vetting influencers to campaign ideation to final reporting, we help brands across a variety of industries uniquely leverage creators while building a library of user-generated content.


To learn more about our services and access our creator network, contact our team to schedule a strategy call.