how to spot authentic influencers

How do you Spot an Authentic Influencer?

Would you know if an Instagram influencer has built their following? Or taken a shortcut or two?

Is that engagement on their YouTube video genuine, or is a bought comment?

Does it matter? 

At Fleamail we believe that authenticity should be at the heart of influencer marketing. After all, there’s no point investing budget in creating content when the audience for that content isn’t truly engaged.

Fleamail v Fake Influence

At Fleamail and in our influencer communities, we use our own software to monitor influencer’s channels, looking at engagement rates and growth patterns. This helps us to identify influencers who may be using automated or artificial means to boost their audience or engagement.

We do not list influencers or channels that we identify as using these methods in our database.

We also do not list influencers that use cash giveaways to build their follower numbers. Our belief is that such giveaways are NOT an effective way to build a relevant, engaged audience.

Click here to take a free trial of our service, which connects you with 15,000+ UK social media influencers. 


As a brand, though, is there a way to spot whether an influencer has an authentic audience – or if they’ve used artificial growth and engagement tools?


Today we’re sharing six green flags to look out for when working with influencers. While none of these are definitive proof that someone has faked their influence, you should take them as an indication that it’s possible.

How to Spot an Authentic Influencer

It’s All About Engagement

On average, an active Instagram account will have engagement of around 2%. So someone with 10,000 followers might be expected to have around 200 likes per photo.

This is only a guideline, and a lower engagement rate doesn’t necessarily mean the followers are ‘fake’.

So look for a channel or page with at least 1% engagement, up to around 3%. Any lower or higher than that, and unless your influencer is a celebrity, the engagement might not be genuine.

A Closer Look

Still not sure if that engagement is authentic?

Look a bit more closely. Has the number of follower and likes remained fairly steady, with gradual growth over time? That’s a sign that an influencer has put in the time and work required to build their audience naturally.

Sudden spikes in growth or large increases/decreases in the number of people the account is following can suggest the use of automation tools. It can also suggest the influencer is following and unfollowing large numbers of accounts to increase their own following.

The Pod People

Here at Fleamail, we do not believe that engagement groups are a sign of authentic engagement.

What’s an engagement group? These are groups (sometimes called ‘pods’) that exist on WhatsApp, Facebook and other platforms. They have hundreds, sometimes thousands of members, who all share links to their latest posts on social media.

The group works on a tit-for-tat basis. As a group member you’re expected to like everyone else’s images – and they like yours in return. Exchange threads exist for Instagram likes, follows, Story views, account profile views and comments. They also exist for Facebook post likes and shares, YouTube views and comments, and pretty much any other form of social content you can think of.

Engagement groups are a grey area.  You could argue that networking and supporting other influencers in your niche is just smart business.

But if an influencer is swapping hundreds of likes a day (and potentially using commercial software to ‘like’ hundreds of photos as part of this arrangement) this is not genuine engagement.

If you want to be sure that influencers are getting genuine engagement and NOT using large-scale engagement groups, there are a couple of things to look out for:

  • at least 50% of the comments come from accounts NOT associated with other influencers
  • where influencers are commenting on images, they’re within the same niche
  • engagement isn’t unnaturally high given the nature of the content
  • comments make sense and relate to the content within the photo

Location, Location

When evaluating influencers, it’s worth considering whether their audience includes your potential customers.

For example, you might be evaluating two food influencers. Influencer A has 100,000 followers on their YouTube channel, while Influencer B only has 15,000.

In this instance, though, Influencer B may well be the better option. The account is authentic and a large number of followers are based in the UK. Meanwhile Influencer A has an audience with large numbers of followers from Asia and the Middle East. Are those people likely to buy your brand’s product or engage with you?

There are a host of tools available to identify the location of someone’s audience, but YouTube analytics and Instagram Analytics on business accounts will provide influencers with this data, and it’s worth checking this information before engaging with influencers on paid content.

Quality of Content

Ultimately, good old common sense will tell you how genuine and authentic an influencer is.

If an account has 50,000 followers and has been running for a year, that might raise some red flags (assuming there’s no other reason to explain this massive growth).

An authentic influencer will have a natural ratio of followers to following.

They will have a follower number that makes sense given the number of images they have posted.

When they post video content, the number of views will make sense given the number of followers.

The comments on their posts will be natural, avoiding obviously ‘bot’ accounts, and including non-influencers.

Photos and text are consistent and original (Beware of accounts that hoover up images from various other accounts and present them as their own).






If a very new account has 50,000 followers with relatively low quality photography and poorly written captions, then unless they’re currently appearing on I’m a Celebrity, you’ve likely got a problem.

We like good quality online content. On Instagram, that tends to be high-quality photography and a consistent theme/tone to both words and images.

When in doubt, trust your judgement. When it comes to influencer marketing, it looks too good to be true, it probably is.



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