How brands should tackle fake followers

The old saying “fake it till you make it” has been applied by many in social media over the last few years, with great success. We are now starting to see those who have built up a genuine following or years of expertise in a particular field fight back, expose some of the “frauds”

Is the industry beginning to self-regulate or is it simply that in this day and age we all need something to be angry about, a bandwagon to jump on? For me and I have said this before Social Media is long overdue some of the safety nets other advertising platforms have.

Some may read this and think big deal, others may agree, I have spoken to those on both sides of the fence.  It gets interesting as the two main issues are for those who claim to hold Influence and then those who offer businesses a service such as social media marketing.

It’s those who offer a service and claim to have a large following (which turns out to be bought) that I have the issue with, its fraud, you are misleading those who trust you and using your following to say hey we know what we are doing, look how we have built up our audience. 

Then there are those who do it for the Influencer marketing to boost the advertising revenue (ad fraud), which is a massive factor that stunts the growth of Influencer marketing in some sectors.

Wake up call!  











Businesses and brands should look at these recent stories as a wake-up call, if you are going to spend the budget on marketing your business, or using influencer outreach then it’s time to get serious about doing your homework. Or at the very least making sure  your agency partners are accountable for the spend, are they doing the homework for you?

Most businesses understand traditional media and as it’s been around for so long have good sanity checks in place (aided by stats and regulation) Social Media is still in its infancy and the same level of education and understanding is often not there. However, this should not stop you from being vigilant at the campaign planning stage.

The planning stage is the most important, make sure those who are working with you understand your brand, your goals, and who your audience is. Despite that 50 slide powerpoint deck on your business you prepared and sent to agency partners, it simply does not mean they get your business! Be diligent here and it limits the room for error later on.


I am a small agency or business how can I check that we have the right partner?

Firstly when you are bringing people in to pitch your business, if they claim to have been there done it and got the T-shirt, then some case studies and tangible evidence will exist, get them to talk through the project. Have they shown an understanding of your market, your audience and most importantly your business?

In my experience this is the bit that seems to go out the window when people don’t understand something it’s easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes, clients see the number of followers and instantly make a connection, oh these guys know what they are doing and some do.  It’s those that have bought this light credibility that we have issue with (more so with those who have purchased the engagement as well)

We are a results-oriented industry, and while each project is different don’t be afraid to ask partners to show you what success they have had, ask them to talk through how it was achieved and actioned. Good agency’s and specialists will be happy to share this, and if anyone is worried about the ideas being stolen, be happy to sign an NDA, problem solved.


How can we check?











When hiring an agency in particular or if you are having an influencer campaign managed, before you get drawn into the data on returns, the charts showing the ROI, the case studies, start with understanding the policy they have on selecting Influencers, what due diligence do they go through? Any good agency will be happy to be transparent as they are looking for repeat business and are in it for the long haul, they are just as concerned about the “fakes” as you are.

If you are doing this yourself, or as a marketing department you can still do your own sanity checks and here are a few tools to help. :


Twitter fake follower tools

Instagram fake follower tools


The biggest giveaway is the ratio of followers to engagement, too often we see 100,000’s of followers and little engagement, this is the best metric to use.


This is a tool developed by OMD and Influential, it’s a scoring system that looks at a variety of things including the engagement to determine if the engagement is real or not. (yes people also buy engagement in a bid to dupe you, although it’s fairly easy to spot) This creates a score and gives a good guideline as to how genuine the account is.  

We would also say, remember if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!


There are lots of good genuine influencers who have built up followings the hard way, by engaging and using the experience they have to influence the lives and work of others and to hold influence you don’t need large numbers, it’s quality numbers that matter and we should not tar everyone with the same brush! 

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