This month, we’re talking all things related to what’s real and what’s fake: authenticity, fake news, and—today—fake followers. (We could’ve done a whole Valentine’s post about the pitfalls of fake love, but we’re not cynical like that.)

So: fake social media followers. The topic was in the news recently because data miners have found that many of President Trump’s Twitter followers aren’t real people; they’re avatars created by bots to help boost his following.

Trump isn’t the only public figure whose profile is boosted by fake bots; politicians and celebrities galore are followed by egg accounts. And this isn’t a problem that only Twitter faces; fake bot accounts are bountiful across other social networks, too (though Twitter does have the most.)

The next question you may ask is this: does it even matter if my client’s followers are fake?

Yep, it sure does.

Having a high number of followers can give a client that initial ego boost that comes with feeling popular. But any social media manager worth her salt knows that the number of followers for her client doesn’t matter if they’re not the right kind of follower (i.e. the right demographic fit for the brand), if they never engage with your client’s content, or if they aren’t real and therefore don’t have a real wallet from which to pull an active credit card and make a purchase of your client’s product.

So how does one decipher whether a social media follower is fake? Let us count the ways:

  • They have a crazy number of followers. Of course, the Kardashian-Jenner posse and the Taylor Swifts of the world have a lot of followers. But you know who they are. The jake_ttaxx (a handle we made up) is not a famous person, so why would he have tens of thousands of followers? This is a clue that this account has potentially purchased followers, a practice that’s unethical and not particularly useful if you’re a brand trying to engage with influencers with real, uh, influence.
  • The comments they leave aren’t specific or relevant. Comments like “lovely picture!” or “great shot!” can be from fake accounts who post to every Instagram account they encounter. They’re generic because they’re probably not coming from a real person who looked at the post with real eyeballs.
  • They only have a significant presence on one channel. A true social media influencer will have a presence across at least a couple of channels. If they’re a photographer, their best platform is probably Instagram, but they’ll still have a decent following on Facebook or Twitter. When good social media managers encounter a suspicious account, they google the given name and handle. If they’re not to be found on any other channel, chances are they’re fake AF.
  • Language or images that seem to come straight from the mouth of a robot. If the influencer’s entire Insta feed looks like stock photos, or if their Twitter account is full of computer-generated, boring content that’s chock full of links, chances are they’re a bot. Sorry, dudes.

If you encounter this kind of weird social media behavior, you can always ask the influencer about it—and a real human could give you reasonable explanations. But the bottom line is this: if an influencer seems like a bot, they probably are.


Related Posts: Don’t fake it: Authenticity is king