Influencer Marketing

How to Spot / Avoid Fake Influencers on YouTube & Instagram

Influencer marketing is a very lucrative business model for many entrepreneurs on Social Media channels like Instagram and YouTube. New and existing brands alike aim to work with authoritative influencers in a particular niche when they have amassed a significant following.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing has gone from a mere market size of $1.7 billion in 2016 to an estimated $13.8 billion in 2021. As such, it is no wonder there will be those who abuse the system by setting up accounts with a large number of fake followers and even inauthentic engagements.

Follow these quick tips to avoid falling into the Fake Influencer trap:

Check Engagement Levels

You can take the number of likes, shares, and comments, and divide it by the number of followers an influencer has. You can use a tool such as’s engagement rate calculator to facilitate the process.

Sometimes you may find that an influencer has a relatively low engagement level but seemingly an active audience. If this is the case, it could be a matter of how broad a topic they may cover. Many people will be interested in a subset of a larger topic and thus ignore a lot of other content.

In some cases and if it is very low, it is also possible they had bots follow their Instagram page or subscribe to their YouTube channel in order to create the appearance of having a significantly larger following and authority. This makes them more attractive but in reality, they may simply be Nano influencers (under 10,000 real followers) and pose as Macro or Mega influencers (over 100,000) thanks to automated bot services.

With that said, you may be best avoiding them. In the event that you want to work with them, don’t fall into the trap of placing that much value over a large number of illegitimate followers and paying a premium for a service that may not ultimately be worth the price tag.

Read Comments

Fake followers can generate fake engagement metrics by using bots to like, comment, or even share posts and videos. By taking the time to carefully review engagement metrics on each post or video, you are more likely going to find out whether you are viewing a real maintained account versus a poorly maintained account that primarily uses automated initiatives to post connect and generate engagement.

Consider reading comments. Comments are generally left by an engaged viewer and are likely to closely portrait what the post or video is about. If you only see generic comments like “Awesome!” or “Wooowwww, liked!” it may be a red flag – look for comments that more closely match the content the influencer posts.

Look for Themes

If you visit a popular YouTube channel with a real audience, you’ll see that it is normally well maintained and you can instantly tell whether it is a well maintained and authentic channel. They typically have consistent branding throughout such as their photo on the channel header and custom video thumbnails that reflect their content well.

Although you may find authentic channels that are yet to have a properly set up page, most serious influencers will take good care of their image and it is those you should seek out as potential collaborators for your brand.

It can also be a good idea to check out how frequent they post once you are on their page — that way you know whether you are considering someone who is active in their community. If their last post or video is 6 months old, you should probably move on.

Look for similar patterns and themes on other social networks like Instagram, and TikTok.


Influencers can generate significant gains in terms of marketability and even ROI for your brand or service. However, you want to make sure you don’t waste your time on fake or over-inflated influencers that have a dark-side to them. 

On the plus side, even if you fall victim to a fake (or low quality) influencer, you can quickly determine whether to continue working with them as you will notice that they generate no ROI whatsoever. For example, if it’s a YouTube video and it links to your site, you should see increased traffic from this traffic source and maybe even some conversions. If it’s an Instagram post, you should start seeing some people follow your own page (if it has relevant content and they hashtag you in the post) and even visit your website if you have it included in your profile.

Finally, if you are looking to work with YouTube influencers, read our other influencer article How to Generate More Sales with YouTube Influencers.