This Influencer Marketing Shop Created Fake Accounts to Prove That the Industry Is Full of Ad Fraud
Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing channels in advertising, with our research estimating that $1 billion was spent on Instagram influencers alone in 2017. With brand dollars pouring into the space, social media influencers, whether established or aspiring, are vying for brand sponsorship deals.
I founded Mediakix, a dedicated influencer marketing agency, in 2011. In the years since, I have witnessed a rise in these deceptive practices and wanted to draw awareness to the issue. These practices span the gamut of unscrupulousness and range from gaming Instagram’s algorithm with “pods” to purchasing fake followers and engagement to creating entirely fake personas and accounts.
It’s difficult but not impossible to know whether an influencer has purchased fake followers and engagement. About a year ago, we were evaluating several accounts for potential campaigns and noted that one woman in particular had more than doubled her followers in less than a week.
While rapid follower growth isn’t the only indicator of whether an influencer paid for followers, it does raise a red flag, especially if nearly every Instagram post is sponsored. We checked her rate afterwards and it had nearly tripled due to her boosted (fake) following.
This represented the latest form of ad fraud afflicting advertisers and brands today seeking to work with social media influencers. To bring the issue to light, we created two fake Instagram influencer accounts. The goal of our experiment was to show how easy it is to create a fake influencer account, and to prove that it’s possible for fake accounts to secure paid brand deals through influencer marketing platforms.