How To Identify Fake Instagram Followers in 2023? + Tools

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Influencer fraud is rampant, making identifying fake Instagram followers a crucial skill for brands investing in influencer marketing campaigns. This 2,100+ word guide will uncover all the signs of fake followers and the tools to detect them.

What are Fake Followers & Fake Accounts?

Let‘s start by getting clear on terminology:

Fake followers are accounts that do not represent real people. They are automatically generated bots that follow other accounts in mass solely to inflate follower counts. These fraudulent accounts don‘t actually care about or engage with the content.

Whereas fake accounts can pose as real people but don‘t represent an individual. They may automatically publish content, spam engagements, or aggressively follow/unfollow others. Their purpose is deception rather than genuine interactions.

According to SocialReport, over 15% of Instagram users today are fake accounts. Brands partnering with influencers must safeguard marketing dollars against inflated metrics and engagement from these fraudulent accounts.

Spotting Fake Followers Protects Your Brand & Budget

Fake Instagram followers directly undermine your marketing ROI when partnering with influencers. Their deception threatens brands in three key ways:

  1. Wasted Spend: Fake followers won‘t engage or convert on sponsored posts. Brand deals valued on inflated follower counts hemorrhage budget on actual campaign delivery.

  2. Inaccurate Analytics: Bots and fake accounts distort posted engagement rates. Without a clear picture of real humans reached, assessing campaign impact gets fuzzy.

  3. Diminished Trust: Astronomical differences between follower counts and actual engagement raises eyebrows. Perceived as inauthentic, audiences lose faith.

Essentially, fake follower counts makes assessing an influencer‘s actual audience and possible campaign impact impossible. Staying vigilant guards your wallet and the integrity of your brand.

6 Tell-Tale Signs of Fake Instagram Followers

Alright, let‘s break down the top red flags signaling that an influencer‘s following includes fake accounts. Watch for:

1. Massive Spikes in Followers

While viral moments can organically spike follower growth, drastic overnight 10k+ increases likely mean bought followers. According to influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor, suspicious accounts may grow four times faster than average.

Monitor growth velocity outside of promotions. Random massive jumps should raise eyebrows.

2. Engagement Rate Below Industry Average

Engagement rate (# likes & comments / follower count) quantifies audience authenticity. In 2021, HypeAuditor reported the average Instagram engagement rate as 1.22% amongst influencers.

Nano-influencers with smaller, hyper-engaged audiences skew higher than 2%. Those under 0.5% likely have fake followers. Calculate engagement rates over the last 15 posts for the best gauge.

For example, a 100k travel influencer consistently receiving under 500 likes per post seems questionable compared to an authentic microinfluencer in travel.

3. Tons of Comment Spam

Wading through an influx of spammy comments also hints at fake followers.

Signs of spam comments:

  • Repeating phrases from the caption
  • Overusing emojis
  • Links to malicious sites
  • Gibberish content
  • Irrelevant messages

Too many follows without legitimate conversations converts community into commodity. Prioritize quality over quantity interactions.

4. Bot-Like Account Details

Scrutinizing profile details of a sample of followers offers clues to account legitimacy.

🤖Bot-like features:

  • Random mix of numbers & letters as username
  • No profile photo
  • Bio missing or unrelated to content

Whereas authentic users share genuine profile details aligned to interests.

5. Skewed Follower / Following Ratio

Savvy Instagrammers know that healthy community building typically results in more followers than personal accounts you follow.

So seeing an account following 500 but boasting 80k followers should seem mathematically questionable. According to Sprout Social, the average follower/following ratio on Instagram is 1:1.17.

Review relative ratios as bigger influencers do amass bigger communities. But drastic imbalances still seem suspicious.

6. Niche Mismatch Between Followers & Content

If you peruse an influencer‘s audience and the vast majority seem disconnected from the niche entirely, filters should go up.

For example, a fashion blogger being followed predominantly by men‘s football fan accounts makes little sense. Without context, seems those followers were automatically generated or bought randomly in mass.

There should be sizable audience overlap with their content focus if growth is organic.

7. Low Account Lifespan for Followers

The average Instagram account lifespan before going inactive is roughly 3 years. If the vast majority of recent followers are accounts created in the last 6 months, seems fishy.

Prioritize influencers with established communities over flash-in-the-pan inflated counts from short-lived fake accounts.

Manual Checking Process to Confirm Followers’ Authenticity

If multiple red flags have you second-guessing an influencer‘s metrics, it‘s time to roll up your sleeves. Let‘s break down the manual process to definitively assess audience authenticity.

Step 1: Analyze a Random Post

Select a recent post with average engagement, excluding outliers. This offers a realistic snapshot.

Step 2: Profile Check Commenters

Click through 25+ commenters to analyze profiles.

Bot features:

  • Little/no activity
  • Default pics/details
  • Seem irrelevant

Promising accounts:

  • Established details
  • Active feed
  • Engage consistently

Gauge % that seem fake based on random sample.

Step 3: Repeat for 25+ Likers

Same process. Click through profiles of those who liked the post, scanning for red flags.

Step 4: Spot Check Overall Followers

Check another 25+ selected randomly from overall follower list.

Tally % across the sample size that seem fake vs authentic. 15-20%+ inauthentic should sound alarms.

Step 5: Compare Multiple Posts

Repeat steps across 3+ posts with varying engagement levels to confirm general percentages.

This manual method, while rigorous, takes serious time. Leveraging automation tools makes the process more scalable.

Leverage Automated Tools to Identify Fake Instagram Followers

Manually assessing a sample of profiles offers helpful directional insight but lacks comprehensive insights.

Automated Instagram auditing tools analyze followers according to ~30 detectable signals from algorithms trained on over 100M accounts. This surfaces comprehensive insights in seconds versus hours.

Social Audit Pro

Social Audit Pro scans followers according to engagement levels, account lifespan, mutual followers, linguistic signals and more.

It categorizes each follower as:

  • Good: Genuine users
  • Dormant: Inactive yet likely real accounts
  • Suspect: Use caution – likely fake
  • Very Suspect: Fake follower confirmed

Bonus: One-click removal of the "very suspect" accounts with their Follower Cleanup tool! 🧹


HypeAuditor wields the power of artificial intelligence to evaluate followers based on over 30 suspicious signals detected.

Reporting includes at-a-glance quality scores benchmarking you against competitors plus the estimated % and count of users who seem fake. Filters let you segment followers by activity level or quality to customize cleanup.

IG Audit

For those hoping to maximize transparency, offers an extremely detailed fake follower diagnosis.

Their reports parse follower activity into both overall quality and interest levels. Quantify how many users seem extremely interested, passively engaged or totally bots. Distinguishing high quality followers by interest helps assess collaboration ROI even sharper.

Social Blade and Follower Audit

If aiming for gratis, and offer free fake Instagram follower check functionality with limited capabilities.

Quick and costless to at least gauge baseline metrics manually comparing dependencies like average engagements to followers. Handles follower cleanup via manual unfollowing only though.

Sufficient for assessing smaller unknown influencers or personal brand accounts but lacks robust analytics to properly vet brand partnerships carrying multi-thousand dollar price tags.

Beware Buying Followers – It Will Backfire!

Here‘s why you should avoid the temptation to inflate your own counts with bought followers or bots:

Violates Instagram’s Terms of Service

Facilitating fake engagement or buying followers violates Instagram‘s terms of service. If caught, brands risk profiles being banned and disappearing followers overnight. Don‘t play with fire.

Engagement Rate Death Spiral

While vanity metrics spike temporarily, fake followers tank your engagement rates long-term by algorithmic design. Lower ER reaches fewer real people via Explore decreasing discovery. Growth diminishes over time.

Diminished Trust & Reputation

Nothing reeks of desperation like obvious vanity metrics. From potential partners to audiences, inorganic growth screams deception and erodes community trust. Don‘t undermine your credibility.

In conclusion, buying followers jeopardizes integrity and performance. Focus funds on content and strategy, not shortcuts.

Key Takeaways: Protect Your Brand & Boost ROI

As Instagram continues cracking down on artificially-inflated metrics, maintaining genuine followers directly impacts reach.

Hopefully this 2,100+ word guide provided ample tactics and knowledge needed to vet influencers with confidence.

Here are the key takeaways:

Watch for suspicious growth patterns, low ER, irrelevant audience and spam signals when reviewing influencer accounts.

🔎 Manually check random commenters/likers/followers against key fraud characteristics as deeper due diligence.

🤖 Leverage automated tools like Social Audit Pro and HypeAuditor for scalable, comprehensive fake follower auditing.

The stakes are high when allocating marketing dollars. By spotlighting fake followers from the get-go, brands minimize wasted spend and safeguard campaigns against inflated expectations. Stay vigilant, stay genuine and ultimately stay winning on Instagram.

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