From Fake News to Fake Influencers: How Not to Get Burned With Influencer Marketing - John Bohan
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From Fake News to Fake Influencers: How Not to Get Burned With Influencer Marketing

I just read an article from Mediakix entitled Are Fake Instagram Influencers Deceiving Brands? The company ran an experiment to see if it could create fake influencers that actually received solicitation from advertisers. Not surprisingly, it succeeded. They created two profiles featured below and received ad offers from a swimsuit company, a national food and beverage company, an alcohol brand and others.

Below are the fake accounts (CaliBeachGirl310 and Wandergggirl) that the company produced.

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Kudos to Mediakix for running this test as it brings attention to a major issue with fake influencers as well as the manner in which many brands and agencies are managing their campaigns.

To a buyer that lacks the proper tools and expertise, I can see how these influencers could look appealing –

Pretty pictures ✔️
Decent Following ✔️
Decent Engagement ✔️

Must be good to go, right?

Actually, far from the truth.  Why do brands and agencies hire influencers without looking at their followers? No one buys TV spots without assessing who is tuning in. Influencer Marketing is no different.

By using technology that taps into the Instagram API, we can see the behavioral patterns of the followers with regard to where they live, what they like, tag, engage with and post. The data is extremely accurate and detailed in analyzing the followers.

Below are the demographics and psychographics of the followers for Calibeachgirl301. Some major red flags are:

  • Location: 90% from Brazil, 45x the Instagram avg.
  • Angola is >100x the Instagram avg.
  • Ethnicity: 90% Portuguese, 43x the Instagram avg.
  • Age/Occupation: 45% are younger than 18, yet 21% of them or 67x the Instagram avg. are “investors”

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Another trick is to use fan technology to see precisely who is following these influencers. By connecting to the Instagram API once again, we can receive a list of the followers by largest following, most engaged, etc…

Once these lists are pulled, it only takes a second to realize the influencers’ followers are fake.

For example, below is a snapshot of some of these followers including a fake model who says “I live life for a living” (whatever that means).


I love the next fake fan DESATIVADO who has somehow acquired a following of 855 friends, yet he has not found the time to put up a post. I think he is too busy following and engaging in other accounts.


So, what should marketers do to build out the right influencer marketing strategy and avoid getting burned by these fake accounts?

The answer is quite simple. They need to either build out an in-house team with deep expertise and a suite of influencer technology. Or, hire the right company. Influencer Marketing is a multibillion industry (eMarketer) and is arguably the fastest and hottest growing ad medium today. Selecting the right team and allocating the right budget is critical to capitalizing and understanding this new medium.

For a more complete plan to selecting the right influencer marketing team for the remainder of 2017 and 2018, go to for a powerful 10-step guide.