March 4, 2019 Mollie Parker

Spring Clean Your Social Media: Spotting Fake Social Media Followers

You’ve heard of spring cleaning—the idea that the change of seasons is the ideal time to open the windows, let in the fresh air and sunlight and rid your home of all of the dust and debris that accumulated while you were holed up all winter. But besides your home and your vehicle, spring cleaning can also apply to other aspects of your life—like your social media accounts. In general on social media, the more “likes” and “follows” we have on our pages, the better we feel. Some of these followers, however, could actually be doing you more harm than good. Fake social media followers can ruin your account’s credibility—and you might not even know they are there until you look.

What are fake social media accounts?

An account that we are describing as a “fake” social media account can often look like a real, legitimate social media user with a profile picture, person’s name, bio, etc. But beware—some of these are bots. Bots are essentially algorithms acting within social media networks.

Bots serve to mimic human social media followers in the way they comment on and like posts. According to a study cited by Forbes, 30 percent of legitimate social media users can be fooled by a bot. There are certain things you can look for when spotting these fake social media followers, which we’ll address later.

Social media bots exist for a variety of reasons. Some serve to convince you to buy things. Others signify some sort of influencing opinion and want to sway you to agree. Still others exist simply to cause trouble, mimicking legitimate social media accounts of celebrities and politicians, for example.

There are companies that create these bots and sell “followers” to everyday businesses looking to increase their followings. This is obviously a no-no. Read on to learn why.

Why is having fake social media followers bad?

You might think, “The more likes, the better” when it comes to your social media pages, but this is not necessarily true. The more quality likes, the better, is more like it. Fake followers can not only harm your page’s credibility, but they can actually affect the way your posts are disseminated to your legitimate followers.

Most social media algorithms limit your posts’ initial organic distribution to only a select number of your followers. Now consider the fact that some of that initial sample of users who your posts reach organically are fake social media followers. The post is essentially wasted on these false accounts when it could have reached a higher number of legitimate ones.

If you have too many of these low-quality followers, your initial engagement will be low, and the algorithm will not push your content any further beyond that initial sample group. This equals poor reach for your social posts.

How can I spot fake followers?

Though bots aim to mimic “real” social accounts, there are some very telltale signs that a social account is not backed by an actual human being.

  • High follower count with few posts. If an account genuinely earned a significant number of followers, there would be posts to back it up.
  • Maxed out following count. Instagram limits the number of users you can follow to 7,500, for example. Fake social media followers are more likely to max out their follower count than authentic accounts are.
  • Questionable profile. Is there no profile picture, or a profile picture of say a gorgeous model that doesn’t seem to match up? What about the bio section—is it nonsensical or vague? Probably a fake.
  • Sketchy content. Look for ads, spam and other posted content that just feels…shady.
  • Automated comments. Unfortunately, we get these all the time on our McNutt & Partners Instagram. Comments like “Great photos!” or “Love your feed!” These are sure signs of bots.
  • Inappropriate comments. Bots don’t comprehend context. Some of the automated comments mentioned above may appear somewhere completely irrelevant—like, “Great photos!” on a picture of someone’s grandmother who passed away.

What can I do about fake followers?

No one has time for fake friends—especially when it’s hurting you on social media. Luckily, you have defenses against these faux followers. For one, when you spot a questionable account, you can manually block that user, which will in turn prevent the user from seeing your content and remove the user from your follower list.

If you have a significant number of followers with limited time to weed through them all, there are automated tools that were designed specifically for this purpose. Programs like Fakers App for Twitter and Social Audit Pro for Instagram are a couple of automated tools to help you audit your followers. There are also free online tools like this fake follower bot checker, which allows you to type in an individual username to determine whether it is a fake.

Start your spring cleaning by ridding your page of fake social media followers that only serve to bring you down. Need help? Call us at 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

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