Have you been approached by someone who called themselves an ‘influencer’ on Instagram? Maybe this person claims they can make your content go viral, or they can help connect you with top people in your industry. Whatever the claim is, there are likely financial strings attached and once you’ve done your part by sending the money, the fake influencer disappears.

What is an ‘influencer’ on Instagram?

An influencer is someone who has a large following on social media. This can be either a brand or a person, and they are paid to promote certain products or services. Their job is to influence others to partake in something and they’re usually paid for their efforts or in commission.

While there are plenty of legitimate influencers on Instagram, as well as other social platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, there is also an abundance of fake influencers. If you’re approached by someone who claims to be an influencer online, how do you know if they’re legitimate or not?

Red flags of a fake Instagram influencer

They ask you to pay them.

The first red flag of a fake influencer is if they’re asking you for money. Influencers aren’t sales representatives, they aren’t making sales for the brands or companies that hire them as an influencer. The goal of an influencer is to build a following and make money off of that following in other ways like ads and sponsorships. They don’t need money specifically from you to do that, that’s what the sponsorships are for. If they’re asking you for money, they’re a scammer.

Their content is not original or authentic.

Oftentimes fake influencers will copy content from the accounts of actual influencers and report them as their own. They’ll try to fool you into thinking the posts are genuine by adding hashtags like #sponsored or tagging certain brands. If the content doesn’t look original or authentic, meaning it the brands they’re supposedly representing aren’t quite right, it’s a scam. A real influencer will put forward the effort to post original and authentic posts to entice new brands to sponsor them. If the content is low quality, it’s a red flag.

The stories they tell don’t add up.

If they claim they were poor before they started making money on Instagram or if they say that it all happened overnight, those stories are usually lies. In most cases, it takes years of hard work and dedication to build up a following like this. While it’s possible to build something from the ground up, these stories can often be disproven by checking the date that the account was created or by the first post on the account. Remember, scammers will tell you anything if they think it’ll get you to send them your money.

They have fake engagements with their followers.

You might see this when someone has thousands of followers but fewer than a hundred likes on any post — which means that most of their followers aren’t real people. They might also have a lot of comments from bots that say things like “great pic” or “love your feed!” If an influencer is getting fewer than a hundred likes, they’re in trouble. Part of being an influencer requires regular engagements with followers to keep them interested. If they’re not genuinely engaging with their followers regularly, they’re likely a fake influencer.

The followers are bots

There are many examples of fake Instagram accounts, but one of the most common types of fake accounts is bot accounts. These are automated accounts that have been programmed to follow and unfollow other accounts. The purpose of these bots is to make it appear as if someone is popular on social media when they’re not. Bot accounts can be hard to spot at first, but once you start digging, you’ll find that bot accounts are bare and unoriginal. Remember, an influencer needs an actual audience to be an influencer. If their audience is a bunch of bots, they’re a scam.

All in all, not all influencers are bad news. In fact, if you’re looking to grow a business or product, partnering with an Instagram influencer can be very beneficial for both of you. Before deciding to do so, make sure to thoroughly vet the person claiming to be an influencer. Interview them and ask for previous work samples. A relationship with an influencer is supposed to go both ways. If they ask for your money, but can’t provide proof of a benefit for you, consider it a red flag of an Instagram influencer scam.

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