Fake Instagram accounts and how to spot them

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Instagram — a social media platform where men and women with thousands of followers share pictures of their seemingly carefree lives — cats, cocktails and full contouring. It all looks so easy, often times, perhaps a little too easy.

It takes most Instagram influencers years of unpaid hard work to grow a dedicated, engaged and loyal following. But with so much competition out there and a desire to get paid to post, there has been a surge in fake accounts and Instagrammers doing a lot more than just great styling and filtering to get more likes. This makes it more important than ever to be aware of how to spot fake Instagram accounts, especially if you are looking to collaborate online.

How do they do it?

The rise in fraudulent and spam accounts has led to Instagram trying to crack down, but this has just pushed people to come up with other methods to boost their followings.

Aside from buying followers and manufactured engagement rates, users are turning to underhand and inorganic methods to amass followers and there have been a number of social experiments to prove just how easy it still is. Take Carolyn Stritch, for example who took 10 years off her age, photoshopped her face (over 16k likes), and contrived a trip to Disneyland that never happened, using manipulated images (over 19k likes).

To further prove this, a marketing agency called Mediakix embarked on a project whereby they created two “influencer” accounts using purchased followers and comments, to secure four paid brand deals. calibeachgirl310 was carefully crafted, using photographs of one girl in multiple locations during a one-day photo shoot. The other, wanderingggirl was created using free stock images of popular, scenic destinations. Both are eerily convincing.

How to spot fake Instagram accounts:

If you are a brand looking at embarking on some influencer marketing, here are a few tips on how to spot fake Instagram accounts.

High followers, low engagement

Be suspicious of accounts which have less than a 10% engagement rate of followers per post. For example, if someone has 50,000 followers but only gets under or around 100 likes per picture, something isn’t quite right.

Spam comments

One of the easiest ways to spot a fake Instagram account is to look for generic comments, tags and mentions. For example, if someone comments “Nice shot” with a thumbs-up emoji on one of your posts, it’s likely generated by a bot. Spam comments are typically generic, vague and lack personality.

They don’t post often

If they only post a few times a year, but have a suspiciously high number of followers, they’re most likely a fake account.

Sneaky product placement

You’ll know you’re following someone who’s being paid for their posts because they’ll pop a discrete #ad or #spon on the end of some posts.

Use the right tools

In learning to pick up on fake Instagram accounts, it’s helpful to make use of certain tools that are fortunately available to help pick up on shady Instagram behavior that might not be so easy for us to spot.

The most popular tool to do so, is SocialBlade. It offers a day-to-day chart that can show you which of your favorite influencers are possibly buying followers, by showing large spikes in followers on a given day. This tool will also help you to see whether someone is doing follow/unfollow, as it tracks their activity and shows if they follow a large number of people one day, then unfollow them all the next day.