Instagram is one of the favorite platforms for influencers and brands. With 2 billion monthly active users, it’s a powerful platform for businesses to connect with their community and reach new audiences, among other benefits. However, a platform this large comes with a few problems, and the problem of fake accounts is among the biggest ones.
Instagram is rife with fake accounts. You’ve probably come across a few yourself, without knowing that those accounts were fake. These accounts are harmful to regular users, influencers, and businesses alike, and it’s important to be able to set them apart. To help you with this, this article looks into what fake Instagram accounts are, how they can be dangerous, and how you can spot them.
What is a fake Instagram account?
Before we get into why fake profiles are harmful and how you can check fake Instagram accounts, let’s talk about what fake Instagram accounts are.
In short, these are accounts that are not run by an individual. These accounts can be mass created by people or bots, for different purposes. Some are actively used to comment, share, and like other accounts as part of a paid service, while others are used to scam people and brands in one way or another. The scams can range from phishing to fake product sales.
Currently, there are 95 million fake accounts on Instagram, which means that roughly 1 out of 10 Instagram users is fake.
What are the dangers of fake Instagram accounts?
Businesses and influencers who are just starting out often look for a shortcut toward growth and success, and engaging with fake accounts is often a tempting option. Social proof, after all, is a powerful tool, and having thousands of followers can make the account seem more appealing, right? Wrong! Having fake followers or interacting and collaborating with fake accounts does more harm than good in the long term. Here are some of the dangers of fake Instagram accounts.
- Increase the risk of Identity theft
Because of phishing, it becomes easier for fake Instagram accounts to collect personal information on users, including names, photos, and contact information. The reason this is done is often identity theft: these fake accounts collect your information and create a fake account that pretends to be you or your business. In fact, it was reported that Instagram bots often use data of real people, without their knowledge. The purpose of these fake accounts may vary, from financially scamming people to swaying public opinion and emotional manipulation. Often they pretend to be businesses or influencers, trying to get the followers who think they are following an authentic account into giving their details, making a purchase, donating, and more.
- Result in troubles with Instagram
While there is still a substantial amount of fake accounts on Instagram, the platform invests considerable resources to fight bots, fake profiles, and scams. While it’s impossible to stop fake accounts from being created, Instagram bans and removes accounts that seem fake. So it’s safe to say that the platform doesn’t look very nice at fake accounts. And it’s not particularly nice towards businesses and creators engaging with fake or shady accounts too. If you even unknowingly engage with fake accounts by collaborating with them, or trying to attract more followers at the expense of fake accounts, you risk getting your account banned.
- Hurts credibility
Savvy and attentive Instagram users, especially those who are interested in purchasing from a brand, will be attentive to the content it posts and the accounts it interacts with. So they’ll be quick to notice any hint of non-authenticity, and this can damage the brand’s reputation significantly, driving off potential customers.
How Fake Instagram Accounts Can Affect Businesses and Brands?
81% of Instagram users say that they use the platform to find businesses and products. Businesses know this, and use the platform to reach out to potential buyers, including through influencers. And this is where the issue of fake accounts becomes noticeable.
Brands invest considerable resources into their Influencer marketing strategies, looking for effective collaborations that would bring them a high ROI. Many businesses are willing to pay a considerable amount to work with influencers with a large following, hoping that this will expand their reach, and improve brand awareness.
If these businesses “fall into the hands” of fake accounts with a large following, unable to distinguish if the account and its following are fake, they are at risk of losing their influencer marketing budget without gaining much in return.
4 tips to spot fake Instagram accounts
Fake Instagram accounts can be harmful both to businesses and creators. To avoid this, it’s important to be able to distinguish them from real accounts. Luckily, there are several simple tips and tricks you can use. Below are some of them. Keeping them in mind can help you significantly in your efforts to avoid scams.
○ Tip 1: Look at their bio and profile picture
Let’s start with the profile picture and the bio. It’s the first thing people notice when checking an Instagram profile. In the case of fake accounts, both the image and bio are often quite generic.
If the profile picture is a person, running a reverse search may help you find who the person is. Or if the account has any pictures of a person.
As for the descriptions, in the case of fake Instagram accounts, these are rarely very personal or specific. A fake account’s description will rarely, if ever, include information about physical location, education, workplace, or anything else that’s relatively easy to check.
○ Tip 2: Check the Account Feed
Next up is their feed. We’ve already mentioned that fake Instagram accounts often don’t have a bio and a profile picture, or if they do, it’s something very vague. The same logic applies to their feed as well. More often than not, the photos will be something generic, looking like pictures downloaded from photo repositories: there is no common theme, and it’s hard to distinguish what the person behind the photos does. Additionally, you may want to pay attention to the time frame when the photos were posted. People standing behind fake accounts want to achieve their goals quickly, so they don’t invest time into developing the account. So, chances are, all photos will be posted in a relatively short time period, and uploaded quickly right after the creation of the account. Additionally, in the case of fake Instagram accounts, little if any effort is put into the written descriptions.
○ Tip 3: Look out for promotional posts
If the account does have photos, but the majority of them are promotional, announce suspicious giveaways, or large discounts, the account may be fake. Their incentive may be trying to trick you into a scam or get you to follow a link that’ll be beneficial for them. Pay special attention to accounts that promote products, especially if you sense that something is not right.
○ Tip 4: Consider their following and engagement rates
Following is detrimental for any Instagram account, especially for content creators or businesses looking for influencer collaborations. Luckily, it can also be a good tip-off for determining fake Instagram accounts. If you doubt if an account can be fake, pay attention to their following. Fake accounts usually follow a very large number of accounts, working on the “follow for follow” principle.
Another thing to pay attention to is reach and engagement rates. There are many tools out there today allowing people to buy Instagram followers for relatively cheap. However, they cannot make those accounts engage with their content. So, if you notice an account with a large following and very low engagement rates, you might be looking at a fake account.
By now, you should have a better understanding of the dangers of fake accounts, as well as how you can check fake Instagram accounts. While the purpose of these accounts can vary, they can do a lot of harm to individual accounts and businesses alike. Pay close attention to the accounts you come across, and use the tips discussed above to avoid interacting with them.