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Insta-gate and Faking it Until you make it—the scandal is real

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.


  1. They have a trick for the comments as well do not be fooled. They join comments groups with as much as 100 bloggers or more and comment on each others pics. And they have rules to make the comment look like real engagement. LOl you will notice it’s always the same people commenting.


  2. Hey I remember having a conversation with you about this subject when we met up last year. And os it rages on…. I have no doubt this is real but it’s crazy that it’s still so rampant especially since it’s easy to spot fake followers. And it’s not just the mid tier bloggers doing it, it’s big ones O_o

  3. This is going around so much, its crazy and scary to know how many influenceers have fake followers and yes its so easy to see it…so why do they still do it ? You just tarnishing your own brand and making a fool of yourself…honestly have no time for that xxx

  4. Great post! This is really an issue especially if those influencers get paid because of how many followers they have. I also find annoying/upsetting those who use websites to automatically make their accounts follow an account with the same niche. Hoping they would get a follow back and then they will unfollow. I often see those many accounts that follow me and then a week or even days later they will follow me again meaning they unfollowed me and their software or algorithm of the site they use followed my account again. That’s why when I see accounts that have more following than followers I tend not to follow them back because they might be using that automatically follow thing 🙁 And then there’s also those websites that sell followers that will give you a demo before contacting you to prove their service so you’ll wake up with at least 15 or more fake followers 🙁

    xx Alyssa // STYLE VANITY

    1. Alyssa,
      Follow- unfollow games on Instagram are upsetting and unethical to say the list. However, there may be different reason for account to have more followers and they follow. For example, all my followers are organically grown. However, I may not follow back accounts that not excites me, or inspire. This way my feed is not cluttered by posts that are not in my field of interests. Also this way I was able to create network of people that have similar interests and who encourage my creativity.

  5. I don’t know why people do it! Its so easy to see its bought and that they are fake x

    Pink Frenzy

  6. I see youtuber who has 120 or more of fake comments half of those people have numbers and no name, this youtubers have thousands of followers but companies give them products and orhers see and follows along to get notice. The same with bloggers

  7. Haha I thought only I always spot these fake followers. And yes like followers and post likes, comments can be fake too!


  8. This is such an interesting post, Allie. Thanks for the link to that NYT article. I find it hilarious when bloggers buy followers TBH. It screams desperation. You really want “fame” that bad? I don’t know. Maybe, I’m just naive but I’ve always thought the old fashioned way of getting followers, through gaining followers by writing/putting up really great posts, is the way to go.

  9. This is sad that there are bloggers who are doing this. I do get your frustrations about this and it can be unfair to the brands they work with!

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

  10. Allie,
    Such a great interesting post! Thanks for sharing girl!


  11. Great and interesting post! Thanks for sharing!


  12. Thank you so much for writing this pos Allie! I am so pissed of because of the whole algorithm change and the fake followers thing happening on Instagram! Honestly, I don’t even feel like using Instagram anymore! I used to love it before Facebook bought it and messed it up. My engagement has dropped significantly even though I am working really hard. Popular accounts are becoming more popular only by buying fake followers. How can brands/companies be so stupid to collaborate with bloggers like these! And how the hell do they manage to get their account verified? I have a feeling, soon people will get bored of Insta (Remember, once Myspace and Orkut were a thing?) Oh god, I can keep talking about this nonsense. But I really hope they do something about it!

    Anyways, Have a nice day!

  13. Instagram makes people crazy, lol. It’s definitely a rampant issue and new gimmicks are springing up all the time.

    Le Stylo Rouge

  14. Interesting topic amd timely too. Even if an influencer has say 1000 followers, amd it is real , is it because she or he is spending all of their spare time just moving their two fingers across the cyberpshere… it seeem like a time suck for sure . Is that person really an influencer ? I hear you re: fake likes.. ugh.
    I do believe in the make it till you make it concept though, it has helped me control my autoimmune disease, along with other things,of course,
    And yes that lovely space will be yours! I thought it was…actually. It looks like your taste.

    Xx, Elle

  15. I don’t understand why some people would waste their money on that stuff. If I had 10k followers but all of them were fake, I would feel the same way as if I had 0 followers. It’s not like it boosts my confidence or anything lol.
    I was recently looking into buying views for Youtube videos since it was truthfully recommended by a successful Youtuber. I’m still debating upon it but buying Youtube views is actually worth it because when you have more views, people are more attracted to click on your video and it’ll rank higher in the search.
    Buying followers for Instagram however is…useless. I’ll just stick to some hashtags.

    Nicole | http://www.nicolegramcko.com

  16. I can’t believe how many accounts are being outed as buying followers, I didn’t even know it was a thing till the whole scandal hit twitter and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

    Rosy | Sparkles of Light Blog
    My Instagram | Instagram

  17. This is so interesting post! Thanks for sharing!


  18. yeah fake accounts bug the crap out of me — I block them immediately
    I want my followers to be real people
    its quality over quantity


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