How Fake Followers Ruin Your Influencer Marketing Campaign

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How Fake Followers Ruin Your Influencer Marketing Campaign

Fake accounts plague Instagram since its start in 2010. These accounts or bots are usually computer-based and randomly follow Instagram channels, post spam comments and like huge quantities of pictures. But there is another side to the story: More and more Instagram users deploy fake followers to increase their follower group and multiply the likes and comments on their pictures.

At first glance, it might seem pointless to put the effort in creating content and then artificially increase one’s follower group by paying for fake followers, likes and comments instead of relying on real people and their honest feedback. But as a matter of fact, the majority of marketers first takes a look at an influencer’s follower base before acknowledging other metrics like engagement rate and audience quality. A certain follower number is needed to warrant awareness of a brand or a product and also displays a standing of the influencer in the industry.

Based on these conditions it is, in fact, no surprise that the demand for fake accounts is consequently high: According to a group of researchers, in 2015 a total of 8% of Instagram accounts consisted of fake channels. For advertisers, collaborating with influencers with a large amount of fake followers bares high risks – the cooperation will oftentimes not have the expected outcome.


The purchase of followers has increased mainly due to the fact that the follower number still is a highly important metric. As pointed out, most companies look for reach when analyzing influencers for cooperations. Thus, the influencers feel pressured to attract a certain amount of followers to be noticed for cooperations in the first place. Especially at the starting point, it can be extremely challenging to gain followers, even though an influencer has an excellent content quality and puts a great amount of effort into the content production. For such newcomer influencers, it might be helpful to get a jump start in the form of purchased followers since people tend to rather follow channels with a high amount of followers.

Imagine discovering a new channel on Instagram with good content quality and 1,500 followers. You will probably, consciously or unconsciously, prefer a channel with similar content (and content quality) and 25,000 followers who actively engage with the channel to the smaller one. Without deeper analyzing an influencer’s channel, high follower numbers basically serve as a sign of quality in the Instagram universe. Therefore, artificial followers will eventually attract organic followers in the long-run.

Purchasing followers will, in fact, increase the follower number – it will, however, not necessarily have a positive effect on the engagement rate. There are bots who do not only follow but also like and comment, whereas other kinds of bots only follow. When using these, likes and comments have to be purchased as well to increase the engagement rate in equal measure. The engagement rate is essential since it signifies how active and engaged the users are behaving in relation to a channel’s total follower base.

Although a high engagement does not equally translate into high sales, it has to be noticed that fake followers are never beneficial for advertisers: Even if the purchased followers are human, they have no real interest in the content and only follow for money. More probably the followers are artificial bots. In both cases, the followers are invaluable since they will never purchase the advertised products.

Therefore, it is in no way beneficial for companies to cooperate with influencers who have large amounts of fake followers since the outcome will not be worth the money. Advertisers have to consider that the pricing of a collaboration is based on CPT – the advertiser is charged for every follower, no matter how valuable or invaluable that user is. In the case of a high amount of fake followers, this investment will not turn into positive sales.

From an ethical perspective as well as a legal one, deceiving potential business partners when entering a cooperation by faking reach with the help of purchased followers is fraud – it is de facto a failure to perform. In a worst case scenario, the company’s investment in the cooperation will be lost completely.


Purchasing Instagram followers on the internet is easier than one would expect. Automation tools like Instagress provide extended services and have different kinds of followers to choose from, starting with basic packages of random followers and going up to offers that differentiate between gender and nationality which helps to make the purchase less obvious – for example, German influencers will naturally have a majority of German speaking followers when keeping their posts in German.

The companies selling fake followers basically have two options:

  1. They create millions of fake accounts and follow their customer’s channels with these.
  2. They create bots that follow (and unfollow) automatically.

A quick google search leads potential customers to numerous pages with package offers like this.


The prices vary depending on the number of followers and also differ according to whether one buys followers from “real” channels or bots. If desired, likes and comments can be bought additionally, ensuring a rise in engagement. These can even be bought for future content: A number of likes will be sent automatically to new uploads.

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