What Do Fake IG Followers Cost Brands In Influencer Marketing?


For those of us that have navigated the murky waters of Instagram for many years what we’re about to reveal will come as no surprise, but the sheer scale of the number even left us a bit blown away. Before we give you the answer think to yourself: what proportion of IG activity you see on your pages and feeds do you think is faked?

5%? 10%? Think higher – 25%! That’s right, according to Cheq, a digital focused PR agency and research firm, one quarter of the followers for top influencers on the platform are fake. But they didn’t stop there. Read: CNBC here. 

Together with Professor Roberto Cavazos from the University of Baltimore Business School they then used this figure to calculate the total amount brands and companies are being cheated into paying for exposure and placement. This number was a staggering $1.3 billion. It works like this: let’s say you’re a company like Target. You want to increase sales of your new Target-branded line of clothes, so you reach out to a number of influencers on IG to promote your products. The rate these influencers are able to charge is dependent on how many followers they have and how much engagement they generate. What this study found out was that a solid portion of this data is being faked and brands are overpaying by a ton. Prominent Instagram celebrities are paying a pittance to follower mills, often based in Asia, to buy followers and engagement and unless someone looks closely, it all seems legitimate.

Many of us who are prominent in the IG universe have watched this process unfold. Our inboxes are full of inquiries from follower mills asking us to juice our follower counts, but many of us never took the bait. While this sort of activity will continue unless IG dramatically overhauls their platform (the removal of likes altogether is being tested), it’s still our belief that quality content and meaningful engagement will continue to rule the day. You can’t fake the type of engagement we have on our IG pages, and we’re proud of that.

We’ll continue to monitor this space, and keep you updated.

Photo details: Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, and Kendall Jenner attend The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
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