How To Identify Fake Instagram Followers & Put A Stop To Them
July 29, 2020 by Samantha Hackett
Last Updated: August 10, 2020
Fake Instagram followers are an unavoidable reality of the platform.
For some people, they’re a nuisance that leaves silly comments. For others, they’re a quick way to boost their follower counts. But in both cases, fake Instagram followers are a much bigger issue than you think.
They can hurt you in the algorithm, damage your credibility, and even get you on Instagram’s bad side.
In this article, we’ll fill you in on how fake accounts could be hurting you, and tell you exactly how to clear your Instagram of fake followers for good.
What’s a Fake Instagram Account? And How They Can Hurt You
Before we get into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of fake Instagram followers, let’s talk about the ‘what’.
In short, a fake Instagram account is one that’s not actually run by an individual human being. Some of these accounts are mass created by people; others are mass created by bots. Some are used to spam comments, likes, etc., while others are left dormant.
Every social media provider is plagued by these fake accounts. Twitter removes about 10 bot accounts per second, or more than 310 million per year.
Instagram has an estimated 95 million fake accounts. With a total userbase of around 1 billion, that means roughly 1 in 10 Instagram accounts are fake.
While the purpose of these accounts can differ from platform to platform, one of the most common ways they’re used on Instagram is to artificially boost follower numbers. Wannabe influencers or businesses seeking fast growth buy Instagram followers by the thousands – and those followers are all bots.
Little do they know, these fake followers don’t actually help their account. In fact, they could be hurting it. And unfortunately, even perfectly legitimate brands that don’t buy followers can be affected.
Here are the top 5 reasons fake Instagram followers could be a problem for you.
They Don’t Engage With Your posts
Fake Instagram followers might leave a comment or send a few likes your way immediately after following. But this almost never lasts.
In the long term, they’re not going to engage with your posts.
“Well, so what, not every follower leaves comments, right?” Except your engagement rate is calculated by the number of likes you get in relation to the number of followers you have.
Ex. 100 likes per post / 5,000 followers = 2% an engagement rate.
The better that rate is, the better Instagram thinks your account is, and the more it favors you in its algorithm. In short, each fake Instagram follower that doesn’t engage is driving your rate down further, which hurts your profile’s overall visibility.
Make sure you are attracting REAL followers to your account.
If you are struggling to get the attention you deserve on Instagram, sign up for Kicksta today and start attracting more followers who are interested in your brand.
They Hurt Your Credibility
Some people will simply look at your raw follower, like, or comment numbers and be impressed.
But more savvy Insta users – and smart consumers, in general – won’t be. They’ll notice if your 10,000+ follower account is only attracting a measly 50 likes photo. And if they see that your follower list is filled with fake accounts and your posts are littered with generic spam comments, they’ll start to lose trust in your brand.
They Can Get You In Trouble With Instagram – And Even Banned
Instagram doesn’t like fake accounts either.
And while it’s basically impossible for them to stop fake Instagram accounts from being created in the first place, they do moderate them aggressively, removing them as they find them. And if you have too many fake followers – especially if moderators think you buy Instagram followers or use other banned tools – it could get your account in trouble.
This could lead to your account being limited, suspended, or even banned. Not only is that a good reason not to buy Instagram followers, it’s why you should purge your Instagram of fake followers in general.
They Skew Your Metrics
The best social media marketers know the power of metrics.
When used correctly, Instagram analytics can tell you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and even help you identify new opportunities for growth.
But having too many fake followers can make your data harder to analyze, if not render it completely useless. After all, how can you calculate your actual engagement, conversion, or click-through rates if you don’t know your real follower count?
They Can Hurt Your Marketing Budget
This last point applies less to your own account, and more to “influencer” accounts that use fake followers to boost their perceived status.
On average, paying to have an influencer market your products or brand can be very effective, pulling in average returns of $5 dollars or more on each dollar spent. And yet 25% of businesses either break even or lose money on influencer marketing.
Why? Because they’re paying influencers that don’t actually have any influence.
In other words, knowing how to weed through fake Instagram followers won’t just help your own account, it’ll help you sort through the real and fake influencers in your market as well.
5 Ways to Spot Fake Instagram Followers
Now that you know what fake Instagram followers are and why they’re a problem, you probably want to get rid of them. Good idea.
But to do that, first we have to find them. And there are two main ways to do that:
- Using your own Instagram detective skills
- Using an Instagram audit tool
We’ll start by showing you how to spot them yourself. And if that doesn’t work – or you just want to save some time – we’ll recommend some of the best audit tools in the next section.
Check Their Followers
One of the quickest ways to spot a fake Instagram is by looking at their following to follower ratio.
Because these accounts are often automated, they’ll rack up crazy ‘following’ numbers. Some even hit the maximum limit of 7,500.
Meanwhile, they only have a small number of followers themselves. Of course, this doesn’t mean every newbie Instagramer who follows 100 more accounts than follow them is a bot.
But wildly imbalanced ratios, like 4,000 following to 500 followers, is usually a sign the account is fake.
Calculate Their Engagement Rate
As we highlighted above, fake accounts don’t engage. And this also applies to fake accounts whose own followers are fake.
So, if you see an account that has 1,000 followers but gets less than 5 likes per post, or some similarly low number, this could be an indication that they’re fake. At minimum, it tells you that their followers are fake.
Read The Comments They Make
Another telltale sign of fake Instagram followers is the comments they make.
You know the ones: “good pic”, “nice job”, or simply “wow” or a couple emojis. That’s not to mention the more blatant spam comments, which are especially prevalent under the photos of big accounts.
There are three main things that can separate these fake comments from those made by real people:
- Not relevant to the actual photo
- Grammar or spelling mistakes
Of course, not all fake comments are so easy to spot – and not all generic comments are necessarily fake. But they’re definitely a top sign of fake Instagram accounts.
By the way, if you’re guilty of leaving these kinds of comments, can we suggest you step your engagement marketing game up? Just kidding. But really.
Evaluate Their Profile (Bio, Photo, Username)
When you’re selling 1,000 fake Instagram followers for as little as $12.99, you’re not going to take the time to create accounts with real photos, engaging bios, and unique posts.
Instead, these services focus on slapping accounts up as quickly as possible, with the most generic info they can get away with.
Fortunately for us, this makes them easier to spot. And there are three common giveaways.
Profile pic: Fake Instagram accounts usually have no profile pic, a generic stock photo, or a photo of something that’s not a person, like a beach or a duck.
Bio: Your typical Instagram bio is personable and describes who or what the person or service is. On the other hand, fake Instagram followers will either have no bio or one that’s very generic, contains random promotions, or doesn’t match the content of their posts.
Username: When creating an Instagram account, if you try to enter a username that’s already taken, you’ll get suggestions for the same name with a bunch of numbers tacked on. Now, your average person isn’t thrilled by the thought of being @joe235456932480234, especially because that’s a very hard username to remember. “Hey, add me at joe2354…” – you get the picture.
But fake account creators don’t care. And in fact, this saves them a lot of time, since they don’t have to bother with coming up with more unique usernames.
So, these number-filled usernames can be a giveaway for fake Instagram followers.
But there are two other things to check for, especially if the account is claiming to be a celebrity: Is the account verified? And are there any slight misspellings in the username?
No, the @taylorswiff account with 537 followers that’s following you isn’t the real Taylor Swift. Sorry we had to be the ones to tell you.
Want to organically grow your Instagram and gain REAL followers?
Look At Their Posts
Finally, we come to their actual posts. Again, these fake account creators don’t have the time to populate their spam profiles with lots of engaging, unique content.
Instead, you’ll usually see one (or all) of these four things:
- Posts that are mostly promotional
- Posts that offer fake discounts or deals
- Posts that don’t fit the bio/profile pic
- Posts made very close together in time
In the latter case, their strategy is usually to throw up a handful of posts as soon as they make the account, often within hours of each other – and then never post again.
So, if you see a profile that made 5 posts within a couple days, then hasn’t posted anything since then, that could be a sign that it’s fake.
Take Stock Of The Account As A Whole
As we’ve hinted at already, just because someone has a few numbers in their username or a photo of their dog as their profile photo doesn’t mean they’re a fake account.
So, the tips above should be applied as a whole, rather than as individual steps.
This doesn’t mean you have to study each account like a cold case detective though. Once you know what to look for and have practiced it a few times, you’ll be able to assess an account’s pic, bio, follower count, and posts in a glance and have a good idea on whether it’s a real or fake Instagram follower.
But if you still can’t quite tell – or you simply don’t have the time to go through all your followers – the Instagram audit tools below can help.
These 3 Instagram Audit Tools Can Help You Identify Fake Followers
There are several good Instagram audit tools out there, ranging from totally free tools that will tell you what percentage of followers are fake, to paid tools that will even remove fake followers for you.
This free tool will use your engagement rates to give you an estimate on what percentage of your follower are fake. From there, you can sign up to get more information on the quality of your audience.
Again, it’s completely free, but it only works on accounts with over 1,000 followers.
FakeCheck is a very similar tool to the above, using your engagement rates to figure out how many fake followers you have.
However, it can be used on accounts with less than 1,000 followers; but it’s not free. You have to buy $1 credits to use it.
If you’re serious about getting ridding your Instagram of fake followers as quickly and efficiently as possible, then this is definitely the Instagram audit tool you want.
Why? Because Social Audit Pro will actually analyze each of your followers, separating them into good, dormant, somewhat suspicious, and highly suspicious tiers. It’ll also give you tons of other details about your followers, from the ratio of businesses to regular users that follow you, to what percentage of your followers are male/female.
From there, you can actually use their Follower Cleanup tool to remove or block the suspicious or ghost followers en masse.
Or, rather than purging the fake Instagram accounts all at once, you can set a certain number to be removed per hour or per 24 hours.
This is definitely the most expensive Instagram audit tool. Auditing 10,000 followers will cost you $10, and there’s a one-time fee of $30 for the Follower Cleanup tool, which includes unlimited uses and accounts.
But if you have more than a few hundred followers, Social Audit Pro will save you hours of time.
How to Avoid Fake Instagram Followers
Now that we’ve rooted them out of hiding, it’s time to actually rid your Instagram of fake followers. Here’s how.
Don’t Buy Followers
Repeat after us: I. Do. Not. Buy. Instagram. Followers.
Don’t do it. It’s simply a waste of money. There are no real advantages – and many drawbacks, as we covered above. And no, you can’t buy real followers.
However, if you still want to increase your Instagram presence but don’t have the time or know-how, there is an answer: try Kicksta! Kicksta is an entirely organic growth tool. Not only do we NOT buy fake followers, we don’t use other spammy methods either, like mass following/unfollowing or automated comments.
Instead, you’ll give us a list of target Instagram accounts that already have the type of followers you’re trying to attract. These can be complementary brands, competitors, influencers in your niche, or other similar profiles.
Kicksta will then ‘like’ 1 or 2 photos from each user that follows these accounts, shooting for around 10,000 likes per month. That means 5 to 10,000 profiles will be notified about your likes – and many will then check out your page. And hopefully, since they already like similar content, they’ll decide to follow you too.
What’s the catch? Unlike when you buy Instagram followers, because our methods are organic, we can’t guarantee you a specific number of followers. But we can assure you that you will see growth, and that’ll it’ll be from real people, with real interest in your niche, not fake accounts.
We even offer a 14-day money back guarantee.
So, if you’re serious about growing your brand, try Kicksta today!
Want to organically grow your Instagram and gain REAL followers?
Report Fake Followers
One surefire way to clear your Instagram of fake followers is by reporting them. Usually, their account will be removed pretty quickly.
To do this, simply follow these steps:
- Find the profile you want to report
- Tap the three dots at the top right of their profile (on iOS or Android)
- Hit ‘Report’
And boom, you’re done. Now, just sit back and wait for that sweet Insta justice.
Remove All Fake Followers From Your Account
If you simply want the fake followers gone and don’t care about reporting them, there’s a slightly faster way to do it.
Here’s the cheaper (but more time-consuming) way:
1. Use the Instagram Bot Analytics Tool or FakeCheck.co to identify the percentage of fake followers.
2. Use the tips described above to find individual fake followers.
3. While looking at your follower list, tap the ‘Remove’ button to the right of the fake follower.
And here’s the more expensive (but way faster) version:
1. Use Social Audit Pro to identify your suspicious followers.
2. Use the Follower Cleanup tool to choose exactly which followers you want removed or blocked.
By now, you should have a better understanding of why fake Instagram followers are such a problem for your business, along with practical steps to give them the boot. While organic growth is a lot slower than buying followers, it’s a much more effective long-term strategy.
What are your thoughts on fake Instagram followers? Let us know in the comments. And if you liked this article, make sure to give it a share.
Instagram Growth Hacks
Join over 10,000+ marketers and influencers who get the latest Instagram tips & tricks sent to their inbox every week