Influencer marketing has been growing incredibly fast over the past few years, and its appeal and effectiveness have been piquing the interest of brands and marketers alike. This rapid growth has also spurned creators into growing their own online profiles, attempting to expand their followings into that of the social celebrities they see earning big paychecks for brand deals on social media. With follower counts and engagement becoming more important than ever, it has become increasingly difficult to understand exactly what’s organic and what’s not these days.

With more people than ever are seeking fame and fortune on Instagram, and the platform has become filled with fake followers and inauthentic engagement from creators looking to accelerate the process of growing their social profiles into prolific channels. It’s for this reason that it’s important to perform an audit before trusting any influencer.

The Rise of Fake Influencers

According to research, over 50% of influencers on Instagram are known to be fraudulent in some sense or another. A majority of nano influencers (those with 1k-5k followers) are categorized as fraud-free at 51.3%. However, micro-influencers (those with 5k-20k followers) tend to show the highest number of fraudulent followers, with up to 71% of these creators having fraudulent metrics.

Fraudulent influencers all over the world have increased over the past two years. Countries like the UK, France, and Germany have seen an increase in fraudulent influencers, aka an increase in the number of influencers who employ fraudulent growth techniques. Research indicates that approximately 40% of influencers in these countries are considered authentic and do not engage in any inauthentic ways to grow their audience or engagement rates.

Given these statistics – and the exponential growth of influencer marketing – it’s become imperative for businesses and brand marketers to verify that an influencer’s following and engagement are genuine before partnering with them.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to quickly spot a fake influencer, and how to vet out these inauthentic creators.

How To Perform an Influencer Audit

Here’s how you can differentiate fake influencers from the real ones.

Look For Odd Follower-To-Engagement Ratios

Fake influencers typically have unusually low engagement rates in comparison to their large follower counts. While just about anyone with enough money can purchase thousands of fake followers, getting those fake followers to engage with their content is another story.

To help gauge the authenticity of an influencer’s engagement, you must compare their engagement rate against that of their following. These are the basic steps for calculating the average engagement rate:

  1. Divide the total number of engagements within the last 30 days by the total number of posts during the same time frame.
  2. Divide this number by the total number of followers.
  3. Multiply this result by 100 to create a percentage amount. The resulting figure is the average engagement rate over the past 30 days. 

Knowing the engagement rate of an influencer alone is not a completely sufficient means of assessing the authenticity of an influencer. Having a clear idea of industry benchmarks is also important, so you have something to compare against. Engagement rates vary according to many factors, including industry, following size, and other considerations.

Look Closely at Audience Quality

The authenticity of influence on social media can be largely tied to the quality of an influencer’s audience. It can tell you a lot about what they have to offer your brand in terms of true influence. That’s why an audience quality analysis is crucial in spotting fake influencers and inauthentic engagement.