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How To Spot Fake Engagement on Instagram

instagram fake engagement how to



Something I’ve never been very good at accepting is supporting people who I know have faked the majority of their audience online. Maybe it’s my emotional stunt, working hard in this fickle industry, trying to gain an authentic and real following or maybe it’s my own jealousy getting the best of me- the fact that I refuse to buy when others do and have succeed because of it, which, let me say right now is VERY rare. I don’t like to feel any sort of negative energy and over the past year have gotten pretty good at being able to focus on the positive more often than not. But when it comes to bots, buying, and in general, faking it online, I can’t help but get upset. Part of my New Years resolution is to be more open and honest online. This blog post is one I’ve considered sharing many times in the past but never had because I hadn’t ever seen another blogger post about this sort of thing. Why? And would I come off as jealous, annoying, insecure if I did? After many back and forth’s of deciding whether or not to share these thoughts, I obviously went forward with sharing because I feel very strongly about educating my readers and, hopefully, brands in knowing how to spot someone who’s faked their following. 


My goal in sharing this isn’t to stir up trouble or call anyone out specifically. It’s nothing more than to educate and raise awareness. I want to see this industry last for years to come, not crumble under the pressures of numbers. 


I’ve spent years now studying, reading, connecting with PR firms, learning about industry statistics, and I can honestly say through all this learning each and every day, I have developed an eye for spotting fake engagement. I feel as though many influencers in this industry, who have been in it long enough, can typically tell when an account isn’t authentic. I know I’ve had discussions in the past with fellow influencers about realism and I know this is a common denominator across the industry although rarely openly talked about. Bloggers all over the world are frustrated by those who feel it’s okay to use these sketchy tactics and, in turn, our confidence and love is being affected. Imagine this, you’re at your job and you get told that whoever can get the best reviews will get a bonus, and the colleague you’re up against has written down fake comments on her report and so you lose your bonus.

Here’s what I’ve learned… 


“You can fool some of the people all the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all the time.”


First, there are different branches of faking engagement. Some people buy followers. Many moons ago, when I first started blogging, I bought 5k followers 6 months in. I truly believed in the “fake it till you make it” approach. The very next day I regretted it and did ever since. Now, years later, Instagram has wiped those bots out but I feel I can speak openly with you about this and preach that it does NOT work. What did I learn from this? First off, if you have any moral bone in your body, you’re always going to feel shitty about it. And second, it doesn’t really matter if you have 100k following these days, people are not going to follow you if they don’t like your content. Bottom line. 


Next, some people use what are called “like bots” in which an automated system delivers a certain amount of likes to every photo you post, and some people use “comment pods”. This is where you’re in a group chat with 20 [give or take] other bloggers who all post their own photos in the group and every girl involved goes to that picture and likes/comments on the photo. Some girls are in multiple groups and get roughly 200 comments per photo. I’ve heard mixed reviews about comment pods so I tried it out myself. Last year, I joined one and I can say with 100% certainty I hated it. It took up so much of my time for the one week I was in it. I can’t image being in more than one! I personally believe it’s nothing more than a way to make it look like you’ve got crazy engaged followers but 99% of them aren’t there organically. Some have said it helps with the algorithm but I don’t believe that to be true. I noticed no difference in growth from when I was in one to when I left. This, in particular, is something I think brands should be aware of. If you’re paying to promote something through an influencer, you want genuine engagement. What kinds of questions are being asked about the product and are they from “real” people? Or it is just a bunch of other influencers commenting “omg, can’t wait to try this!”?


I’ve researched industry standards statistics in relation to Instagram, and have also had multiple friends in PR firms confirm this as well- according to Fohr Card, Influencer Marketing HubScrunch, and even Statistica, industry standard for Instagram engagement [likes and comments] is between 2-3% of your total following. I’ve come across a handful of girls with really great engagement but have never, ever seen one exceed 7%. Unless you’re a celebrity or a micro-influencer with less than 5k followers, your engagement rate will likely not exceed 7%. If you come across someone who has a 10% engagement rate, it’s 98% because they’re using “like bots”. If you find someone who has a 40k following and 200+ comments, they’re in multiple comment pods.


Industry standard is 2-3%.


Now, how do I know about engagement rates? There is a website called Socialblade. This is where you can see engagement rates, and drops and spikes in followers amongst other things. One surefire way to tell if someone’s bought their following is to check on Socialblade. When you see someone all in the red they either bought at one point and Instagram is clearing out the fakes slowly, or their audience is no longer engaged with their photos- perhaps they changed something along the way that no longer excites their following? If you see a chart on Socialblade with an extreme mixture of red and green, and lots of dips and spikes, it’s likely because they’ve bought. People who’ve bought will always have a drop at some point. An organic following is 98% in the green with a steady incline upwards. Whether you’re gaining 3 followers a day or 300, green is natural. So seeing a graph that’s constantly up and down should send out some red flags. Something else I noticed is when a person has roughly the same amount of likes on every photo they’re definitely using a like bot. No one has the same range of likes on each and every photo.


I’ll leave you with this note, if you’re authentic, consistent, and bring something new or refreshing to the table, your following will grow naturally. Don’t get caught up in the numbers; I promise you, they will come. As soon as I stopped worrying so much and posted what I wanted, what I cared about, and was true to myself, my following grew overtime. Yes, working with brands is exciting and they do look at numbers, there’s no denying that, but the right brands, the one’s who are really worth it, will be able to tell if you’ve bot {pun intended}. And if getting free stuff from ChicWish or Zaful is your goal then please ignore this post, but if you’re looking to truly connect with readers, inspire and share, educate and motivate, then please take this post into consideration. Be a reflection of the brands you want to one day work with. 

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