Influencer Marketing: 5 Ways that Influencers Fake Their Performance

Influencer Marketing has become a very popular tool, in New Zealand as elsewhere, but the practice is not without its perils.

Unlike traditional media, which is tracked and audited by the likes of Nielsen, Roy Morgan Research and other independent sources, it’s much more difficult to determine the true merits of influencers. There’s a growing recognition in the marketing industry that many of the metrics by which influencers are typically evaluated — e.g. numbers of followers, comments, shares and other forms of interaction and engagement — can be easily faked.

According to a recent UK study, the Influencer Marketing Survey 2019, whilst 98% of influencers and content creators report that they’ve seen follower fraud in action, they worry that only half of marketers, ad agencies and PR companies are savvy enough to identify fake influencers.

It’s a not-unreasonable concern, given that it sometimes takes quite a bit of homework to spot the fakes, and it can be very lucrative to be an Influencer, so there’s a lot of temptation to be seen as an influencer with an apparently-large following.

We’d hate any of our colleagues to be misled, so (guided by Hitsearch) we thought we’d help out with some advice on how to spot common Influencer Marketing fraud tactics.

Watch out for these 5 ways that influencers can fake their performance:

1 Buying followers
This is probably the oldest influencer fakery tactic in the book. People running Instagram accounts that have under 10k followers can’t command the bigger fees or high-value gifted products from retail brands because they don’t have access to the ‘swipe-up’ feature on Instagram Stories that allows them to link to a third-party website (e.g. the brand product page). Buying generic followers isn’t expensive. At the time of writing, you can purchase 5,000 followers on Instagram for around $60.

2 Buying an existing Instagram account that already has a huge following
A fairly common, but usually more expensive, tactic for an influencer that wants to suddenly launch themselves onto the scene is to buy an existing Instagram account, with an established following of several thousand people. Then simply delete any previous posts, change the handle and they are ready to go with their own content, and a ready-built audience. Once they do start posting, some of their followers will inevitably unfollow, but it can still leave a significant fake audience in place to put in front of brands they want to partner with.

3 Follow/Unfollow bots
Back in the early days of social media, following someone’s account manually, in the hope that they’d get the notification and follow you back, was standard; so, it’s understandable that it wasn’t long before someone automated the process. Who has time to be clicking that follow button themselves these days? Instagram bots do this same thing, but on a huge scale. You can set them up to follow people with specific things in their bio (or avoid them), or people using particular hashtags and then automatically unfollow them after a period of time to keep the account’s ratio of followers to followed accounts looking better. Bots are also cheap as chips to use. You can buy a month’s worth of ‘high-quality’ bot activity for less than $20 currently.

4 Engagement bots and groups/pods
In a similar way to follow/unfollow bots, you can also purchase a bot that likes and comments on other people’s posts, to encourage them to visit and follow yours.

You can also join Instagram Engagement Groups, sometimes called pods, which are essentially an engagement farm. All of the members in the group agree to like and/or comment on each other’s posts reciprocally. This results in ‘fake’ engagement on the influencer’s own posts, making it look like their audience is more engaged with their content than is actually the case. Engagement rate is a metric often used by marketers who are looking for influencers to work with in brand partnerships.

5 Fake brand campaigns
Now that influencers are meant to make it clear that they are working with a brand in a paid partnership (usually with hashtag use of #ad, #gifted or similar), you might think that it makes it pretty obvious who is and isn’t working on a brand campaign. However, there is nothing stopping aspiring influencers from buying their own products from the brand and joining in with other influencers who are actually working in partnership, using all of the same hashtags, to make it look like they are too.


Because one thing that many brands do, when they are choosing influencers to potentially work with, is to see who worked with their competitors or relevant aspirational brands and perhaps use some of the same people.

How to find the fake influencers
Determining the real influencers, who work hard for brands and get results that matter, from the fakes, who will deliver no real ROI and are not a good use for your marketing budget, isn’t always straightforward.

Whilst Instagram itself routinely does ban and remove bot-created accounts (mainly the fake followers that people buy), the technology used by those to get around the rules generally evolves faster. So unfortunately, when you’re looking for influencers to work with, what you see isn’t always what you get.

There are a range of third-party tools that can help track any account’s follower growth over time, so you can see if there are any unusual spikes that would indicate growth is not organic. You can also manually check the posts and engagement to look at the quality of the comments. It’s usually fairly easy to see bot spam comments when you compare them to actual real people. So, there are ways to cut through the noise and find out who is genuine and not, but it’s a fairly time-consuming process.

If you’d like to learn more about effective Influencer Marketing, may we encourage you to check out our course on the topic:


There’s a new breed of celebrity in town – the influencer (and also the micro-influencer).

The Internet in general, and social media in particular, has brought us thousands of influencers and micro-influencers — “celebrities” with thousands (or sometimes just hundreds) of followers on their chosen social media channels, whose hustling on behalf of a product can encourage many of their followers to actually purchase said product.

Why? Because, according to a report by Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands. And, let’s face it, many brands have brought that fate upon themselves by their own less-than-trustworthy behaviour.

In this course, we consider the importance of Influencer Marketing, determine the smartest and most effective strategies — and explore how to identify effective Kiwi micro-influencers who will be good ambassadors for your brand.

Lesson One: Why Use Influencer Marketing

In this lesson, we talk about exactly what Influencer Marketing is, why it matters to you and when and how you should tap into the power of Influencer Marketing. Allow TapInfluence to explain:

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay Influencers to get out the word for you.

Influencer Marketing has evolved from humble origins to end up as the preferred buzzword to describe the current iteration of a well-established and familiar marketing tool: using “celebrities” to promote your products.

There’s a bit more to Influencer Marketing than just plunking a few celebrities into a TV commercial, however. Today’s definition of “celebrities” (Influencers) has broadened to encompass those who are, in the words of Andy Warhol, “famous for 15 minutes”.

Lesson Two: Most Effective Influencer Marketing Strategies

As it turns out, there’s a bit more to Influencer Marketing than simply tracking down people who seem to have a lot of followers in social media. We share proven strategies which will help lessen potential heartache.

We also examine:

  • the top Power Words to use
  • creative ways to incentivize influencers
  • the four Rs of effective Influencer Marketing
  • how to run successful Influencer Marketing campaigns
  • what Google’s purchase of Famebit tells us about the future of Influencer Marketing
  • why major players are now signing up Influencers
  • twenty trends that will shape Influencer Marketing in the next year

Lesson Three: Choosing Influencers

Not all Influencers are created equal (and there are more than a few pretenders to the throne out there). We discuss what to look for (and what to avoid) — and why you should proceed slowly as you assemble your Influencer team.

Lesson Four: Connecting With Influencers

Once you’ve determined the most appropriate Influencers for your brand, it’s time to reach out and connect. If you’re not careful though, and haven’t thought through the right approach, you might be turned down — or end up paying too much. We share lessons from others that will help ease the way.

And we also also help you to brief your chosen influencers, identifying the key information you should provide to Influencers to ensure that they will promote your brand safely, legally and effectively.

Lesson Five: Finding Kiwi Influencers

There are surprising numbers of influential New Zealanders who have attracted a wide following through their efforts on YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and elsewhere.

In this lesson, we take a look at some of New Zealand’s most-followed influencers on the social networks, including (just one example) the NZ-based YouTube channels with most subscribers:

  • Shaaanxo
  • Wacky Wednesday
  • Jamie’s World
  • Rainbow Learning
  • AzzMan

(and we rate them in terms of whose following is growing — and whose is not).

We also draw on our extensive databases of NZ users on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to identify potential Influencer partners (and tell you how to find them — and how to evaluate them properly):

An in-depth look at NZ’s top consumer YouTubers, their overall performance, their most recent videos, what categories they cover and how to contact them

An in-depth look at NZ’s top consumer Instagrammers, their overall performance, their most recent images posted, what topics they talk about and how to contact them

An in-depth look at NZ’s top consumer Tweeters, their overall performance, their most recent tweets, what topics they talk about and how to contact them

Lesson Six: Influencer Marketing Measurement & ROI

In this section we explore exactly what you can and should measure in order to ensure that your Influencer Marketing campaigns are as effective as they should be.

Lesson Seven: Influencer Marketing Cautions

We discuss the reality of fake influencers – those with fake followers who will happily take your money – and how you can identify them. We then concern ourselves with the importance of Disclosure (ensuring that your chosen Influencers are transparent about the fact that they are being rewarded for their participation).

And we discuss:

  • why Influencer campaigns fail
  • the fastest way to destroy your Influencer Marketing efforts

Lesson Eight: Influencer Marketing Tools & Resources

No need to reinvent the wheel. We tell you what you need to know to create and manage Influencer Marketing campaigns, including suggested formats, frameworks and processes. And we share plenty of case studies to inform and inspire.

Lesson Nine: Influencer Marketing Trends

Finally, we discuss twenty emerging Influencer Marketing Trends and how they might impact on your activities going forward.


Any Kiwi marketer, or anyone who is responsible for marketing for their organisation, who is considering using influencers to promote their products/services will benefit from this carefully-structured approach to Influencer Marketing.



Here’s a sampling of the feedback we’ve received from those who’ve taken our courses:

  • Thanks for an informative and interesting [Facebook Accelerator] course. Your presentation held a good balance of theoretical and practical information and was clear and simple enough for a non IT Facebook novice like me to follow. There are many ideas that I have gained that I will attempt to incorporate in the overall marketing plan my team is currently developing for our brand. Facebook can offer so much more than I thought as a medium for communicating with our current and prospective customers. Julie D
  • I found this course fantastic, i started off knowing very little about facebook (just how to run my own personal page) to now having a thorough understanding of ALL the things you can (and there is a lot). The course format was great and allowed knowledge to be built up over time. Course length was great and this will definetly be something i come back to constantly as we develop our facebook pages more within my company. Aleisha H
  • I have really enjoyed the course and the way it was structured. It was informative and interesting – liked the way you incorporated slide-shows, video, statistics and different forms of media to provide information. Lisa C



This course begins on Wednesday 31 July, 2024.



This nine-part online training course is available for $697+GST. However we offer an EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT of $100 — pay just $597+GST for bookings received by the end of  Wednesday 24 July, 2024.

Bookings are confirmed on receipt of payment, which can be by bank deposit or credit card. We can raise an invoice in advance if you need it.

To reserve your place in this course, please pay by credit card through PayPal by clicking here:

Register Now for the next course

If you would prefer to pay by bank deposit, or require an invoice, please send an email to with your requirements.


You’ll receive our emailed confirmation of your booking. Then on the first day of the course we’ll follow up with details of your Login and Password, along with an Enrolment Key for the Principles & Practice of Influencer Marketing online training course.

If you have any questions, or would like more information, please email us at

Michael Carney Written by: