Instagram finally cracks down on fake followers

Instagram finally cracks down on fake followers

Are you an influencer or a microinfluencer (or even a nanoinfluencer)? After this week, more may be in the latter category.

Instagram has finally announced that it is to crack down on people who use third-party services to increase their follower numbers.

The social media network – the darling of the travel industry and influencers alike – said: “Every day people come to Instagram to have real experiences, including genuine interactions. It is our responsibility to ensure these experiences aren’t disrupted by inauthentic activity. Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.”

Many influencers have used services such as Archie and Buzzoid to buy followers and likes.

People who do will now see messages within the Instagram app as shown below and will be invited to change their password so that these third-party services can no longer control the account.

Instagram also made a veiled hint about people who continue to use these services. It said, “These new measures will be ongoing, and accounts that continue to use third-party apps to grow their audience may see their Instagram experience impacted.”

Some will continue to buy followers, in the belief that Instagram is unlikely to take the nuclear option and block access to the platform. There are plenty of other reasons not to buy followers, however, as marketing agency Hubspot pointed out. Social media analytics tool Hootsuite also tested out what those bought followers were like too and found a mixture of bots and inactive accounts that never engaged with anything they posted.

Yet influencer marketing is growing apace. Speaking at World Travel Market in London at the beginning of November, Socialbakers’ VP of sales for EMEA Damien Landesmann said that 65% of marketers are planning to increase their spend on influencer marketing.

He advised analysing influencers data to predict whether they have fake followers. He advised a three-prong approach:

  • Identify spikes or drops in followers or interactions
  • Cross-check follower number with engagement; and
  • Look for posting consistency and evaluate their content.

The reality is that it is not just influencers who have been buying followers using services like these – brands have too, including those in the travel sector.

There have been many people wondering whether Instagram is really serious about this as it has taken them so long to react. In reality, their action may well be tied in with parent Facebook’s recent problems with influencers of a different kind – those from Russia with an interest in American and British politics.

Instagram’s head of travel for EMEA Neasa Bannon spoke at World Travel Market this year and covered topics such as authenticity and fake followers.

Ultimately, Instagram knows that its long-term success relies on getting in advertising and new services it has launched such as Stories and IGTV will rely on marketing money to thrive.

If we all start being more serious about fake followers, there is a chance that the real travel influencers will finally get rewarded for their creativity.

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Mark Frary is co-founder of Travel Perspective, a social and digital consultancy working with travel companies and tourism organisations to create successful marketing campaigns He is an author and writer specialising in travel, social media and technology. He writes regularly for The Times and has written for many other publications including the Evening Standard, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Express, Food & Travel, ABTA magazine, the easyJet magazine and Teletext.  Mark also gives expert advice to leisure and business travel companies on their social media and communications strategies and is the co-founder of Social Travel Market, an annual conference on the use of social media in travel at World Travel Market. He is the author of seven books including The Origins of the Universe for Dummies and is currently working on a biography of the ski pioneer Erna Low. Mark lives in Ampthill in Bedfordshire, UK with his wife and three children.

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