Faking it until you make it—or believing you are where you want to be before you get there. We have often heard that is a tried and true strategy to trick the mind in to believing something that is not yet true in the hopes that one day it will be true. Any self respecting self help guru embraces this philosophy hook, line and sinker and it has been proven that believing in yourself does lead to more success. But what about when you are just faking it? I have written about this topic before on the blog, but I had to share an experience I had a few weeks ago.
A couple of weeks ago as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed I noticed that a blogger that I follow, suddenly had about ten thousand more followers then she had since the last time I looked at her feed which was about two weeks ago. I did a double take, and then I got “curious” and clicked on her followers list. As we all know buying fake followers is rampant on Instagram.
if the NY Times is talking about it, you know it’s a thing
And I would venture to say that about eighty percent of female fashion, beauty and life style “influencers” are using fake followers. That said, they are certainly not the only ones, but sadly they led they way. So now it seems the word is out, and in fact the New York Times recently ran an article on all the fakery going on in the realm of social media and in particular Instagram. And if the NY Times is talking about it, you know it’s a thing.
So honestly I am surprised so many influences are resorting to this. Brands are much more aware now of what is going on and it is really quite easy to spot fake followers. But back to my story—as I clicked on her followers list and scrolled through them I would click on one to check for all the tell-tale signs of fakery, and then when I clicked out of it I would, as you know, be sent back to the top of the follower list—but low and behold when I got to the top of the list there was a different user listed.
I was actually watching the fake follower script in process in real time
And every time I clicked on follower and then clicked back out and was sent back to the top there was a different account listed. Then it dawned on me—she was accruing a new user every 2-3 seconds. I was actually watching the fake follower script in process in real time…
And every “new” follower she was gaining was fake. Here are a few ways to tell:
1) The user or account name often has numbers in it. There are legit accounts that have numbers in them but many of the fake accounts use numbers in the name. Probably because it is easier to write a script that uses a combination of numbers instead of letters because then it won’t look like what it is gibberish.
Also the names when not using numbers can look like gibberish but not always. But if you see a long list of followers with many of them including numbers in the username, there is a high chance they are fake. When I scrolled through her feed it seemed every third or fourth follower had numbers in the account name. Statistically this would be impossible if they were legit followers.
2) The fake accounts are usually following a high number of people while the number of people following them is much lower. Also if you click on the followers of the fake account you will see the same type of fake accounts. Though if you click on the following list of the fake account all of those accounts are legit—these are all the people using the fake follower account.
3) The fake accounts will not have a lot of posts, but still have hundreds of “followers”. Why would be someone who only posted four or five times have hundreds of followers unless they were well known?
4) The accounts are often set to private, don’t have a photo, don’t post, yet have hundreds of followers and are following thousands.
5) The list of followers will often not be from the bloggers home country. You will see bursts of followers from different parts of the world—often Asia and Indonesia.
6) And this is the one element that is almost always consistent with fake followers—there is no further contact information. No link to a valid Snapchat account, no email address, and no link to a blog, personal website or business. Only one fake account had a live link and although the account was portrayed as a fashion oriented influencer the link listed went to a generic Jehovah’s Witness website.
7) And finally another sure fire way to know that an account is using fake followers is to look at their comments which can NOT be bought. Look at the ratio of comments to “likes” which can be bought. For example on one post this blogger had 2k likes but only 26 comments.
And did you notice the even number of comments? Well upon further inspection this person really only had 13 comments. The other 13 comments were her commenting back to the commenter. If a post had two thousand legit likes, then it should be the ball park of a hundred or more comments. My last post had 124 likes and 10 comments. So two thousand likes should generate about 160-180 comments.
Add up all of the above and it is not that difficult to do some basic research in to an account and see that much of it is fake. Brands are much more savvy now to these tactics. But really if the publishing industry “misrepresented” itself to advertisers it would open itself to liable. If a large online application, like say Facebook “misrepresented” itself on how many views it’s video’s got, they too would be open for liable and it may even make the Six O’ clock news…
Yes it still the wild west when it comes to all of this, but one of these days, one of these “influencers” is going to be called out publicly for their fakery and they may be facing more then just public shame. For me I stick to doing things legit, and using the old fashioned philosophy of believing in oneself. So no, this is not my living room, but a showroom in the Flat Iron district of NY. But one day it will be and all 845 followers on my Instagram account are REAL.