How to Spot Fake Influence on Instagram

With over ONE BILLION people on Instagram, it’s no surprise that people are rushing to be seen a massive influencers so they can get their piece of the modern-day gold rush going on with advertisers who want to reach a larger audience.

Unfortunately, every gold rush has its share of sheisters and carpetbaggers.  Instagram is no different.  Amidst the legitimate influencers, there are plenty of fakes who are buying robot “bot” follower accounts to pad their numbers.  These padded numbers are impressive at first glance and unsuspecting advertisers looking to expand their brands through influencers are getting taken every day. 

Here is an example of a so-called Tequila Influencer (I’ve removed the name).  This influencer is particularly proud of their “Over 25,000 connections via Social Media” – 18,000 of which are on Instagram.  At first blush, they seem legit.  After all, 25,000 is a pretty big number.  If we assume all 25,000 are real, live people then we might be inclined to drop some coin.  

But here’s where we look behind the curtain… 

If you click on the influencer’s followers, Instagram will show you the complete list of all their followers. 

If you take a few seconds to scroll down through the first 1,000 or so, you’ll start to see followers with gibberish, Russian, or Indian names. 

(A common tactic for many is to frontload with several thousand fake followers in the form of bots purchased from Russian or Indian sources so the account looks legit, and then they start targeting people in the industry to put a shiny, new coat of legitimacy on their pile of bots.)

That’s not to say that an agave spirit brand might not have a large Russian or Indian following.  A brand distributing to those countries would be expected to, right? 


So we check a few followers to see if they’re actual people.  Here are some telltale signs they aren’t:

  1. Private account
  2. No profile picture
  3. No bio
  4. No posts yet, or
  5. Under 10 posts

When we checked this influencer’s followers, most of them showed up like this one to the left with no profile picture, no bio and no posts.

I’d bet my house this follower is a bot.

This particular influencer will sell you a 10-15 minute video review of one expression for $900.  If you want their “Influence Package” that includes a blog on their website and a few shares on their social networks, you’ll pay $1500 per expression.

That’s a big chunk of change to drop on somebody with a suspect following made up of mostly bots.

Now that you know how to vet Facebook and Instagram influencers, you’re in a better position to spot fakes like this one.


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