Instagram is a booming platform with over a billion users worldwide, and it is only natural to have some fake account running on the platform, a few of which might even be following you.
There are numerous reasons why someone would create a fake account, to begin with: It could be by an individual for personal gain, to message or follow someone anomalously, etc., or it could be by a service holder from whom people buy fake followers or likes, and more to boost their engagement rates and gain popularity.
Though whatever the reason might be, the fact that fake accounts on your follower list can damage your image, mess the algorithms, etc., is here to stay. So what is the way out?
Check the article to the end to understand how fake accounts work, how they harm your Instagram life, how to tell if an account is fake or not, and ways to clear them out.
What is a fake Instagram account?
As the name suggests, a fake account is not made to be on Instagram other people are here for, i.e., interacting and being social with peers, etc. They are inactive and unused accounts with little to no information on who the owner is.
Fake accounts are the reality of Instagram and many other popular platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, etc. And while all these platforms have taken serious steps to eliminate such accounts, the process of formation and depletion continues.
But why is a fake account following you?
Who does a fake account follow on Instagram?
There are two broad possibilities as to whom a bot-operated account might choose to follow on Instagram –
Those who buy fake followers –
Buying accounts from online services is quite common, especially among influencers, brands, celebrities, and anyone who wishes to take a quick and easy way up the ladder of popularity.
Again, there is a whole set of reasons and plot on how buying followers for Instagram works. To give you a rough idea, whenever a person reaches out to a service to buy a certain number of followers for their account, the holder creates those many numbers of fake or bot operated accounts through different IP addresses and uses them to increase the follower count of the person.
While many services claim to use real and active accounts for the job, there is no telling if they are safe.
Those who do not buy but use certain hashtags –
While it is understandable that a bot account is following someone who bought them, but why would it follow a random person? Though there is no accurate answer to it, a strong theory suggest the following –
Instagram regularly cleans out fake accounts on the platform, and their easiest targets are the ones that clearly state that they are fake through mismatching engagement ratios.
Therefore, to avoid Instagram’s algorithm, many bot accounts are set in a manner that they automatically start following a person who’s regularly engaging with a specific hashtag, say beauty or art, etc. The past searches and follow patterns also attract bots, with many even suggesting a follow-for-follow to make the account seem more credible.
But, how can a fake and inactive account harm your Instagram life?
Why are fake followers bad for your Instagram account?
Many people would simply choose to ignore fake followers on their list, unaware of the harm they do. Below are four reasons why one should be wary of fake followers on their account –
They harm your credibility
Losing credibility on social media is as easy as earning it in the first place. While many people might be impressed by the follower count on your Instagram at first glance, there is a much heavier price to it once the difference in the likes and follower count becomes too apparent to go unnoticed.
People easily lose trust in people with fake followers, even more so if you are an influencer or own a brand, affecting your authority on the platform in the long run.
They can get your account suspended
As many of you might know, engaging with fake followers, selling, or buying them is against the terms and conditions of Instagram; therefore, it does not just eliminate fake accounts but uses them as links to find other such accounts and expose people who engage in such activity.
Therefore, if you have a fake account following you, chances are Instagram will reach your account and, if found suspicious of any such activity, will suspend your Instagram handle. Things can even lead to an Instagram ban if you happen to have too many of them on your follower list.
They don’t provide any real-time engagement
Since the account that’s following you is a bot-operated one or is inactive, they are most likely to stop engaging or liking your post after a couple of times, creating an engagement gap in your metrics. This gap sends a false message to Instagram, building a negative image and low visibility rate, halting even your natural growth.
These accounts do not genuinely like your content or are interested in your niche but are just for the show, decreasing the overall value of your followers as well.
They mess the insights
If you are someone who is genuinely trying hard to reach a social media stardom, you must be well aware of how vital insights are in suggesting what works and what doesn’t in terms of content and strategies.
One can easily formulate a better plan depending on how well the audience took their previous posts, but not when bots are the ones forming the insights. These make data hard for Instagram to analyze and mess it enough to halt your working plans.
So, how does one Spot and remove such accounts?
Ways to Spot a fake Instagram Follower
There are two ways to go about spotting a fake account – First is to self-analyze the accounts on your follower list, and the second is to use Instagram audit tools to detect them.
Let’s begin with how to detect fake followers manually –
The bio, profile photo, and username speaks it all
While most of us would be very cautious of what our account looks like with an eye-catching profile picture, a unique bio, and a catchy username, it is not the case with fake accounts.
People who create fake accounts do so in a considerable number and do not give much thought to all these things. Instead, they try to make the process as quick and simple as possible. Let’s look at how an average fake account would look like –
Profile photo – most fake accounts either have no profile photo, a standard picture as that of a quote or a landscape, or would have a famous person as their profile photo.
Bio – almost all fake accounts have the most general bio with no information of the owner whatsoever. The description, if available, is random, out of context, not matching with the overall theme of the page, etc.
Username – a lot of time, the username we want is already taken on Instagram, and therefore, the platform suggests similar names with a bunch of random numbers as a username that might work.
While an average person would not like to keep it as their username and try to figure out a much better alternative, fake accounts don’t care and often use the suggestion. They, therefore, stand out from other followers on the list and are easy to spot.
A great mismatch in followers and following
It will be wide of the mark to call every account with a more significant following and a small follower count fake, though if the gap is too large to overlook, chances are it is a fake.
Bots do not have a source to gain following except for other bot accounts; therefore, if you still are skeptical on whether or not the gap is solid proof, try scrolling through their follower list to check if the accounts there as well match the criteria of fake, that is if they have a public account.
Check their posts and engagement rates
Though it is rare for fake accounts to have any posts whatsoever if you happen to come across one with a bunch of posts, check for the following details –
What the post is about and engagement
No one creating a fake account would have time to curate an engaging or unique post. Therefore, most of their posts will be random stuff such as memes, promotions, discount offers, and other deals, etc. There will be little to no engagement on the post, most certainly not matching the follower count.
When were they posted
Many people who create a fake account tend to throw in a bunch of random posts altogether at the time of the creation of the account to make it seem more credible to the Instagram algorithms and never bother to log in ever again.
Therefore, if you find an account with a couple of posts, all posted in a close timeline, without any post after that, congratulations, you have just spotted a fake account.
Look at how they comment
If you wonder why a random person just commented ‘beautiful’ or ‘nice job’ on one of your posts, especially when it is completely out of context on what the post is about, it is a fake account.
Apart from spam comments that are effortless to spot, many fake accounts also make more generic comments, which are not personal or thoughtful to any extent, and might even be Grammatically incorrect.
It is, however, essential to check the profile for such accounts before pressing the block.
Use Audit Tools for help
Since it is not impossible to miss a fake account considering how well it can be manipulated to mimic an active account, besides the fact that not everyone has time and energy to single out and check every individual account, especially if you have a large following, using the audit tools available on the Instagram is the way to go.
You can choose to run a check for free using the audit tools, which let you know the percentage of fake accounts on your handle, which further can also be used to remove them at a basic cost.
How to prevent and avoid fake followers on Instagram
Below are some ways to keep your account clear of fake accounts –
- Report a fake account as soon as you come across one.
- Do not accept the friend request from accounts that seem suspicious if you have a private account.
- Manually find and remove all the fake accounts time and again for public accounts and try to keep track of each follower you gain.
- Do not hesitate to block a fake account.
- If you happen to have a significant following, making it hard for you to track individual accounts or go through each of them in the list, run an audit tool test periodically and report it to the Instagram authorities for quick action.
- And, last but the most important one – do not buy Instagram followers from service online, instead use organic Instagram methods to increase your follower count and engagement.
Fake followers are the ground reality of a lot of what we see online on social media, whether it is Instagram or any other popular platform.
Engaging with fake followers not only harms one’s social image but also slows down their personal growth. And, while it is impossible to halt the process of this altered reality it creates altogether, one could significantly reduce its impact by being alert and cautious of such accounts. Happy Scrolling!