Identify Fake Instagram Followers: Red Flag Warnings

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Karen Lin

Instagram Tips | May 24, 2024

Want More Real Instagram Followers?

“Wow! She has tens of thousands of followers! She must be really good.” Like Instagram filters enhance a photo’s appeal, high follower numbers create an appearance of popularity or authority. However, you must look beyond the numbers and ask yourself why and how they’re so high.

On Instagram and other social media platforms, it’s always better to be skeptical than easily impressed and trusting. Knowing how to identify fake Instagram followers is something everyone should learn.

Whether you have a personal account or a brand on the platform, you must be keen enough to identify fake Instagram followers. Stay away from them and the accounts that use them. Here’s your guide to keeping your social media a fake-free zone or as close to it as possible.

Plastic toy heads representing fake Instagram followers

Checking Fake Instagram Followers: Why It’s Important

Whatever type of account you have, it’s more likely than not that you have interacted with a fake user on Instagram at least once. At the very least, bots and fake accounts is a nuisance on the platform. At worst, they can risk your privacy, and personal information, and cost you your credibility. It can get you booted off the platform if you don’t know how to identify fake Instagram followers. Here are the reasons that you should be checking for fake Instagram followers.

How to Spot Fake Instagram Followers

Why do some businesses and influencers get fake followers? In the influencer industry, how much an influencer gets paid depends on their number of followers. Padding their numbers to fake popularity can help them rank higher on the pricing scale.

Creating the illusion of customers can translate to real sales for businesses that sell products. These rationales may seem sound in theory. But more and more users have become more wary and vigilant in reality and are learning how to identify ghost followers on Instagram.

Follow these tips for how to spot fake Instagram followers.

Identify Fake Instagram Followers by Keeping an Eye on Spikes in Numbers

A gradual and steady increase in follower numbers with random spikes and dips is normal for most people. It’s also natural for an account to see a massive spike in its numbers. Within hours or days of appearing on a TV show or after being mentioned by a huge celebrity on their public social media account.

But you can easily identify fake Instagram followers if an account’s numbers jump drastically for no reason and then flatline soon after. It’s highly likely that the account is buying its followers.

Those who are more cautious and patient buy “drip” followers. These follower packages are delivered in small batches daily/weekly over weeks or months to simulate gradual and steady growth.

According to the aforementioned Wired article, you can still detect drip followers with the help of a follower account graph. “Normal users will have a smooth logarithmic slope. If you see a jagged, stair-like pattern out of nowhere, that’s fraud.”

Line graph on paper to help identify fake Instagram followers.

Identify Fake Instagram Followers by Monitoring Engagement

Another easy way to identify fake Instagram followers is by checking if there’s a questionably huge discrepancy between the account’s follower count and engagement levels. More often than not, fake followers don’t deliver any sort of engagement to the account for which it was bought. So you have to ask yourself this question: Why aren’t those followers engaging or interacting with the account? And the obvious answer is that they’re fake.

Find out their industry’s engagement rate standard for any brand or influencer whose numbers you want to verify. Remember that nano and micro influencers with a smaller follower base tend to have higher engagement rates. Macro and mega influencers have comparatively lower rates. Anything much lower than the industry average should warrant further investigation.

This brings us to the quality of engagement. Engagement, particularly in the form of comments, is a valuable commodity on social media. Comments take more time and effort to make; at the same time, they can also be easily faked.

Dozens or hundreds of comments on a post can mean that an account has legit and highly engaged followers. But you should take a quick look at the comments to check for quality. If the majority of the comments sound canned, generic, or are obviously copied and pasted, these point to inauthentic engagement.

Spot Fake Followers by Looking for Other Suspicious Patterns

There are additional suspicious patterns that can help you identify fake Instagram followers. Third-party apps that sell fake followers are keeping up with technologies designed to detect them by also selling likes and comments. Some companies have “repackaged” their follower plans and categorized them into “real/quality followers” and “active/premium followers.” The active/premium package comes with “real engagement” to make the follower growth more believable.

However, you can also use this to your advantage to identify fake Instagram followers. Always look for repeating patterns, such as:

  • When an account has almost the same number of likes and/or comments for almost every post.
  • If a group of users leaves similar or the same generic comments in every post or in quick succession on a single post.
  • If the same user likes your posts or comments on them randomly and in rapid succession.
  • If an account’s customers’ feedback sounds too similar to each other in wording and/or tone.

Plastic figure of a man and a spiking arrow indicating fake Instagram growth.

Find Ghost Followers by Checking the Follower Accounts

This requires some investigative work. It’s worth doing if you’re a business and are looking for potential candidates for your influencer marketing campaign or brand collaboration. Before you invest your hard-earned money, you should do adequate background research to identify fake Instagram followers.

You can randomly select followers from the account to look closely at their profiles. Look for the following red flags to help you identify fake Instagram followers.

  • The IG handle contains random numbers or letters.
  • They’re not using a profile photo, or their photo does not identify who the person is.
  • The account’s profile photo is blurry, or the person in the photo does not appear in any of their posts. You can do a reverse Google image search to find out if the photo was lifted from another user or site.
  • The account follows thousands of IG users but only has a small number of followers. The number may range from a handful to dozens, but rarely more than 100.
  • The account has zero or very few posts. If present, the posts don’t show them in any of the photos. The photos typically look like stock images, or the posts are mostly quotes. You should be especially suspicious if the handful of posts are all fairly recent and coincide with the huge increase in followers of the person you’re investigating.

To be fair, many well-known business and influencer accounts have their share of a bot and counterfeit followers. So it’s essential to use other pieces of evidence to correctly identify fake Instagram followers and accounts that use them.

Catch Bots and Fake Accounts by Using a Fake Followers Instagram Checker

If you’re looking for a quick way to identify fake Instagram followers, you can use an Instagram auditing app or a fake followers Instagram checker. Here are a few of them that you can check out:

  • Path Social’s Instagram Audit Tool. This online tool is absolutely free to use. Type the Instagram username and the tool breaks down any public accounts. This includes comments, likes, and followers to give you a breakdown of the quality of followers and engagement.
  • Social Audit Pro. The company also investigates any public profile’s followers to identify fake Instagram followers. You can also use the tool for auditing your Instagram account to determine if your followers are legitimate active users. The service is not free, however. You can pay $0.001 per follower or choose from their bundles. You can audit 5,000 followers for $5, 10,000 followers for $10, or 20,000 followers for $15.
  • HypeAuditor. The company offers a full stack of solutions for influencer marketing management. One of these solutions is their Analyze Influencers tool. You can get statistics for any influencer account and identify fake Instagram followers. It is based on “35 valuable metrics like engagement rate, follower growth, and comments authenticity.”

Person performing an Instagram audit to identify fake Instagram followers.

What to Do When You Find Fake Instagram Followers

So you have identified counterfeit follower accounts. What should you do next? You can take these steps when you find fake Instagram followers.

  • If you identify fake Instagram followers in your account, you can remove them from your list of followers. You can also block certain accounts so they won’t be able to follow you. The accounts you remove from your follower list or block won’t be notified when you take the said actions. All their likes and comments on your posts will automatically disappear.
  • If you identify fake Instagram followers in another account, you can submit a report to Instagram. If you’re following the account, it would be good to hit the unfollow button.

Why You Should Not Get Fake Followers

The warning against using fake followers bears repeating. Using a quick fix to boost your follower count can be very tempting especially if you’ve struggled to get noticed on the platform.

You might believe that creating the illusion of popularity through fabricated follower numbers will pay off. Should you fake it until you make it? When it comes to increasing your follower base, faking it won’t help your brand in any way.

Remember that most users already know how to identify fake Instagram followers. Being associated with counterfeit followers is akin to being caught with your pants down. It’s embarrassing. And as a brand that should be laying a strong foundation for rewarding growth, building and maintaining your credibility is crucial.

Fake followers are nothing but meaningless numbers. Even if they appear to be remarkable “human forgeries” and are supposed to give you engagement, the faked engagement just becomes additional evidence of your attempt to hoodwink other users.

If you have the budget to buy fake followers, it would be better to boost a post or run an ad campaign. Either one of these will not only give you precise audience targeting capability. It will also provide you with actionable data to help you improve your targeting and content strategy.

Get Real and Engaged Followers to Grow Your Brand

Knowing how to identify fake Instagram followers is crucial for any serious brand to grow on the platform. Once you’ve identified them, you can disassociate yourself from them and the accounts that use them.

If you’re looking for real and engaged followers for your brand, you can team up with a growth service company with an excellent track record in Instagram growth strategy. Path Social is your best bet for lasting and rewarding growth.

Path Social is trusted by over 20 thousand Instagram brands across all niches and industries. With Path Social, you’ll have the advantage of their proprietary AI targeting technology, which ensures precise audience targeting. Proper audience targeting ensures you’ll reach real users who are right for your brand.

Path Social also offers the expertise of their in-house social media specialists and their vast network of Instagram influencers. You have the added guarantee that real people will do the hands-on work of organically promoting your content to your target audience.

With Path Social as your partner, you can expect lasting and meaningful organic growth! Start growing and gaining Instagram followers today!