Gordon Smith

Here’s How Easy It Is to Become a Fake Instagram Celebrity

How hard is it to become a celebrity influencer on Instagram? Well, according to the findings of one study, it’s actually a doddle.

 

Instagram is a billion-dollar industry. Not so much for the food photos or the filters or the promises of a lavish Dubai experience in exchange for sex. No, the world of Instagram marketing is where the beaucoup dollars reside. You may have seen one of these “Instagram Influencers” posting their product-sponsored snaps or their too-perfect-to-be-real holiday shots. Notice me, senpai.

But how do people make money from this? You may indeed ask yourself as you get dressed for work every morning, wondering if you too can live a lavishly filtered lifestyle. This remains a deeply puzzling question.

What does not remain a deeply puzzling question, however, is the question of: “How dangerous can the Internet be, really?” Which has the same answer it always had: “Heaps dangerous, really.”

Instagram is no exception.

 

Along with photos of the Eiffel Tower and other vaguely European landscapes, the agency used stock images of blonde girls that only showed the back of their heads, just to add a bit of variety. Now internet-ready, Mediakix began collecting followers.

 

Marketing agency Mediakix conducted an investigation into the world of online fraudsters, creating two fake Instagram influencer accounts. One was a lifestyle and fashion-focused Instagram model – “calibeachgirl310” – the other, a travel photographer. To help create the perfect fake account, Mediakix hired a real person – a model in fact – and created the content through a one-day photo shoot. The second account, “wanderingggirl,” however, was created with nothing but stock images.

Along with photos of the Eiffel Tower and other vaguely European landscapes, the agency used stock images of blonde girls that only showed the back of their heads, just to add a bit of variety. Now internet-ready, Mediakix began collecting followers.

Instagram can flag suspicious accounts, so the agency initially numbered their purchases to “only” 1,000 a day. However, Mediakix then discovered that they could buy up to 15,000 at a time without being suspected of follower fakery. Each 1,000 followers generally cost between three to eight dollars.

Now, followers are great and all, but those followers won’t necessarily actually interact with your posts. That is, of course, unless you spend around twelve cents per comment and between four and nine dollars per 1,000 likes.

For every photo, the agency purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and ten to fifty comments. Usually, the paid accounts would leave such unexpected and challenging comments as “good job” or “nice!”

 

Instagram can flag suspicious accounts, so the agency initially numbered their purchases to “only” 1,000 a day. However, Mediakix then discovered that they could buy up to 15,000 at a time without being suspected of follower fakery.

 

The accounts eventually hit the mythic 10,000 followers mark, allowing Mediakix to sign them up for various influencer marketing platforms. After applying for new campaigns daily, the accounts secured four paid brand deals in total – two per account.

The fashion account secured one deal with a swimsuit company and one with a national food and beverage company. The much faker travel account meanwhile gained deals with an alcohol brand and the same food and beverage company. Both accounts were then reimbursed with monetary compensation or a free product. Yes, that easily.

Before you start planning your new, Instagram-funded life, this experiment should serve as a reminder of just how common this could be. And the more fake accounts out there, the less money for you, and all the less reason for brands to keep sponsoring users.

“Instagrammers with completely or partially fake followings and/or engagement present advertisers with a unique form of ad fraud that’s becoming more and more commonplace, and could be siphoning tens of millions of dollars from brands,” Mediakix concludes.

That means less investment from the big Instagramming brands and less free raw paleo muesli bars for big advertising users. If the thought of taking free low-fat snack food away from people won’t turn you off fraud, nothing will.

 

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the bigwigs in government to account.

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