The New York Times recently conducted an in-depth investigation into fake followers on social media.

Following the investigation, prominent Twitter users such as Martha Lane Fox and Clay Aiken began losing thousands of followers.

In their more recent report, more than a million followers disappeared from these accounts.

This has confirmed what many people have suspected for a while – that some influencers are buying their followers.

And if you’re a brand that’s looking to work with an influencer, this could have a serious impact on your campaign.

That’s why it’s crucial that you try to quickly assess the fake follower count of potential influencers before you decide to work with them.

If you’re launching a campaign on Instagram, use the following tips to quickly spot whether an influencer has a lot of fake Instagram followers:

Take a Closer Look at Their Followers

There are a few red flags that can help you figure out whether someone has a lot of fake followers, for which you’ll need to conduct an Instagram follower audit.

One of the best ways is to look for followers that have no profile picture and/or haven’t posted anything.

If you see a lot of follower profiles such as these, there’s a good chance the influencer has bought their followers.

You can also look at the list of accounts these followers are following.

If you see a couple of fan-buying accounts among the list, there’s a good chance the influencer is buying fake Instagram followers.

Another easy way to detect if the influencer has fake followers is by going through their comments section.

If the influencer has bought their followers, you’ll find lots of spam comments and comments that are either gibberish or irrelevant.

Take a look at the comments on the following post by an Instagram “influencer” called @calibeachgirl310.

Most of these comments are all very vague and redundant, while some aren’t relevant to the post.

This account has even been exposed as fake in a report by Digiday.

How to spot fake followerrs

Determine the Engagement Rate

Another easy way to determine whether or not an influencer has bought their followers is by checking their engagement rate.

Fake followers hardly engage with a user’s posts, so you’ll find that influencers with high follower count don’t necessarily have a high engagement rate.

You can calculate the engagement rate by adding the total number of likes and total number of comments for the last 10 posts.

Divide the result by the number of followers the user has.

Then multiply the result by 10 and you’ll get the average engagement rate.

If the engagement rate is extremely low, it’s a sign that the influencer might have bought followers.

But what exactly is a good engagement rate?

Check out the Influencer Engagement Map prepared by to gain a better understanding of realistic engagement rates.

map of influencer engagement

If you just look at the engagement of Instagram “influencer” @wanderingggirl, you’ll find that there’s a lot of discrepancy in the follower count and engagement rate.

The user has 34.4k followers, but in some of her posts, there are only a few likes.

In fact, her latest post only has 12 likes and it has been several hours since it was posted.

Looking for fake followers

But since some of her earlier posts have a few thousand likes, her average engagement rate stands at 1.9% as of writing this post.

This is another account that has been exposed as fake by the previously-cited Digiday report.

Use the Right Tools

In some cases, the tips mentioned above may not be sufficient to determine whether an influencer has bought their followers.

There may be times when the influencer isn’t just buying followers but also buying likes and comments.

And sometimes, some bot accounts may have spun content that makes them look legitimate.

So it may be difficult to conduct an accurate Instagram follower audit of your potential influencers.

Tools like Social Audit Pro make this job easier by automatically detecting fake followers for different Instagram accounts.

If you find that an influencer has way too many fake accounts following them, it’s a clear sign that you should avoid working with them.


These are some of the best ways you can easily determine whether the influencer you plan to work with doesn’t have enough “real” followers.

It’s important that you always conduct an audit of Instagram followers for each influencer you wish to work with so as to ensure that you’ll make a wise investment.

You can even use the platform where you can connect with authentic Instagram influencers in a relevant niche.