Spotting Fake Social Media Influencers

Spotting Fake Social Media Influencers
Spotting Fake Social Media Influencers
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The growth of the influencer marketing industry is no accident: the power of word-of-mouth recommendations is a timeless tool and, when used well, influencer marketing can return excellent results for brands.

At the same time, however, the success of online marketing has given rise to the dark underbelly of the influencer industry. These days, it is all too easy to buy followers, likes and comments, and the number of “fake influencers” looking to get a piece of the influencer marketing pie is on the rise.

While the influencer marketing industry has been valued at between $5 to $10 billion, other research shows that close to one-quarter of all online influencers have falsely manipulated their engagement figures. To ensure they get the best return-on-investment, brands need to be able to tell the difference between a true influencer and a fake one. Here’s how.

Follow to Engagement Ratio

One of the fastest ways to determine if a so-called influencer has artificially inflated their follower count is to rely on common sense. Does a user have 10,000 followers, but gets less than a hundred likes per post? If so, they have probably bought followers so as to artificially boost their profile.

This isn’t as rare as many businesses may think; Buzzoid, a so-called influence boosting business, offers 5,000 “quality” followers for less than $40.

Even if a profile has 10,000 followers and 1,000 likes per post on average, it doesn’t hurt to dig a little deeper. If they are getting only a few comments on their posts, it is likely that they bought their likes too.


If a brand is in talks with an influencer regarding a commercial partnership, it doesn’t hurt to ask for screenshots of their audience insights. This information will provide a business with a range of pertinent audience information, including the top five locations, age-range and gender.

Asking for this information isn’t just about proving that an influencer’s claims are legitimate; this market data is also a valuable tool to assess whether an influencer’s audience demographics align with the goals of an online marketing campaign.


Working with an influencer is no different to hiring a new employee. Savvy brands should expect to go through a similar process, such as asking for references from brands, companies and businesses the influencer has worked with in the past.

It is easy to be tempted by big numbers and dramatic claims. What really matters, however, is whether an influencer has a track record of actually delivering on those promises.

The Golden Rule

Perhaps the best advice for businesses looking to enter the influencer marketing sphere is the oldest: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The nature of social media is smiles and shine, but brands need to learn to look past this veneer before handing over the goods.

Businesses that fall prey to a fake influencer’s claims are bound to be disappointed. Basic checks and common sense will save every marketer plenty of time and money.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations. 5W PR is a leading digital pr and influencer marketing agency.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company’s growth, overseeing more than 275 professionals. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world’s most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine’s Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country’s foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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