Fake Engagement and How To Avoid It

  on Jun 26th 2018  

What is fake engagement?

Fake engagement on social media is engagement that someone has paid for either through a company that sells followers and likes or through apps that help you build fake engagement automatically. The most common form of faked engagement is fake followers, but many scam influencers also pay for fake likes and fake comments to make them look more popular and create an illusion that they have a great reach.

When this concept started a few years ago, most of the fake accounts used were so-called bots or computer controlled accounts. However, as the demand increased and social media platforms started working to stop it, the fake accounts became more and more sophisticated. Today, fake engagement usually comes from accounts that look like actual accounts and that are controlled by real humans.

Fake engagement can be found on most social media platforms, but it is the most prominent on Instagram and to some extent also on Twitter.

What is the purpose of fake engagement?

Even though fake engagement is a huge business many still don’t know about it, which is why it still works. You see, fake engagement only works on people that don’t know about it since people that know it exists can usually spot it quite effortlessly. The whole concept takes advantage of humans trust for each other and our hesitation to question people's authenticity. In fact, most people still don’t even know that you can buy followers and likes on social media.

The purpose of using fake followers, fake likes, and fake comments is, of course, for influencers to deceive and trick brands, companies, and real followers that they are more influential than they really are. And in the world of influencer marketing, high engagement, also known as a lot of likes and comments combined with many followers means more work and higher pay.

The problem with fake engagement

The main issue with fake engagement is that it’s deceitful and could potentially harm everyone involved. Every day, many companies and brands end up paying a lot of money for influencers only to end up getting no results from it.

As you already know, the end goal of an influencer marketing campaign is not to get as many likes and comments as possible. No, the goal is always to sell something by directing traffic to a landing page or another social media profile. Often times, real influencer marketing provides both a lot of engagement and a lot of traffic, but in the end, it’s the traffic that really counts. A fake influencer will only provide likes and comments, but not a lot of traffic since the fake accounts and users won’t follow the provided links.

How to identify and avoid fake engagement

So how do we combat this problem? There are a few things you can do to protect your brand from fake engagement.

  • Being careful about who you work with is the most efficient way of avoiding fake engagement. Has the influencer that you are interested in hiring worked before and what were the results from those collaborations? Influencers with fake followers tend to not get hired again and are usually not working very often since they can’t deliver actual results to their clients. Have the influencer prove their work experience and even contact other brands they’ve worked with to get their opinion.
  • Study the influencer’s followers, likes, and comments. Are the followers real people or do they look like fake accounts? Also, look at the comments to see if you can find any patterns in who is commenting and what they are saying - is it genuine or not? Another good way to see if someone is buying likes is to go through an influencer's content and see if there is a spike in engagement at some point. For example, on Instagram, engagement usually grows gradually, and it’s often visible when they started to pay for likes. If an influencer was getting a few hundred likes on their posts for a long time and then all of a sudden started getting thousands, you can assume that they started paying for likes at that point.
  • Use a certified influencer network to completely avoid this issue. Influencer networks like Beatly operate under strict guidelines, and we take a lot of pride in the service we offer our clients. Because of this, all the influencers on our network are evaluated and checked before they are added. Also, all their results are logged and recorded in order to provide you with an idea of how they can perform for your campaigns.
  • Use traceable UTM links for each influencer. After you’ve found an influencer that you think is legitimate, you can still protect yourself against fake engagement. We encourage all of our clients to always use unique links for every influencer since it makes it easier to oversee how each influencer is doing. If something is off and an influencer gets high engagement but little traffic to your landing page, then they are probably paying for their likes and you should stop the collaboration.

What are social media platforms doing to deal with fake users?

Naturally, this problem is not only a problem for brands that get deceived but also for social media platforms. It’s not good for one's reputation to have bot-accounts and companies selling fake engagement, and over the past two years Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have done a lot to try to fix it.

For example, Instagram and Twitter have banned all apps that can be used to generate followers automatically while they are also doing constant sweeps where they erase fake accounts and other spam. Facebook has also applied similar measures on their platform.

Unfortunately social media platforms can only do so much to handle this situation, and in the end, it’s up to you to try and avoid it.

We'll Combat Fake Engagement

Fake engagement is a growing problem for the influencer marketing industry, and it’s hurting brands and companies on a daily basis. Luckily, there are a few ways that one can avoid being ripped off and tricked by fake followers and fake likes on Instagram and other platforms.

Generally speaking, the best way of avoiding fake engagement is by using an influencer marketing network with certified influencers. Beatly has one of Europe’s leading networks of influencers, and we can guarantee that you’ll never end up paying for fake engagement when using our platform.