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Learn to Spot Fake Social Media Influencers

Saige Driver
Saige Driver

Social media influencers can do wonders for your small business. These individuals have a large and engaging following on social media. If you find the right influencers, they can legitimize your company, increase brand recognition and boost sales.

"Social media influencers include bloggers, experts in their fields, celebrities and more," said Justin Lavelle, chief communications director of Been Verified. "Influencers write about your products or brand and are typically compensated with money or samples."

However, not all social media influencers are genuine. Rather than organically building a trusting following, some influencers buy followers, comments and likes. Business News Daily talked to social media experts about social media influencers and how to spot a fake. Here's what they said.

What's a social media influencer?

From popular food bloggers to reality TV stars, it seems anyone can be a social media influencer. But the best influencers have a large following of people who care about what they say, use and recommend.

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"A social media influencer is someone who has amassed a following via creative content and storytelling and can influence consumers through social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc., often with the intention of affecting and 'influencing' various purchasing decisions," said Beca Alexander, founder and president of influencer casting agency Socialyte.

Brands pay social media influencers to create content and endorse their products or services. "Social media influencers basically verify your credibility within your target demographic," said Lavelle. "Traditional advertising doesn't build trust like social media influencers do, especially when talking to millennials."

The most effective social media influencers are very active in their community, said Shellie Wass, social media account manager for Slice Communications and social media influencer for her dog, Oliver the Love Pug.

"[Influencers] are engaging with their commenters, they are participating in discussions around their endorsements, and they have their own personal aesthetics that can leverage a brand," she said. "Companies should be seeking out influencers with a dedicated community that will help to expand their reach."

How to spot fake social media influencers

Just because an account has a lot of followers doesn't mean it has an influence over its audience. Unfortunately, fake social media influencers are on the rise – and if you do business with a fake influencer, it could seriously damage your brand.

"A fake social media influencer is someone who acquires their followers and/or comments and likes in an inorganic manner (e.g., via purchase, loop giveaways, comment pods, etc.), thus lacking a genuine influence over their audience," Alexander told Business News Daily.

Thankfully, there are ways to spot fake influencers from those with a genuine following. Here's how.

  1. Look for sudden spikes in followers or engagement. "You can identify a fake influencer by observing a major spike in following/engagement, particularly overnight or within a short period of time," said Alexander.
  2. Is the influencer active on other social media platforms? "Genuine social media influencers are visible across several social media platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.," Lavelle told Business News Daily.
  3. Look at engagement. "You can identify an influencer who buys his or her engagement by observing an excessive amount of non-engaging or redundant comments (e.g., emojis, comments from the same person, etc.) on most photos," Alexander told Business News Daily.
  4. Calculate the influencer's engagement rate. "Calculate their engagement rates – this refers to the percentage of likes, comments or shares received on posts compared to the total number of followers," said Lavelle. Fake influencers pay for followers – many whom are bots. These followers usually don't engage with content, and if they do, it looks like spam. "Fake followers cannot have real engagement, so their comments look like spam," he said.
  5. Check for earned media. "Check to see if they have any earned media," said Wass. "Earned media shows that they have a large reach and not just a large follower count."    
Image Credit: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock
Saige Driver
Saige Driver
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Saige received her bachelor's degree in journalism and telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media coordinator for Aptera and also writes for and Business News Daily. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie.