Apparent "influencers" can pay to inflate their standing on Instagram – and it is both quick and cheap.
For just R90 a week an Instagram booster can double the amount of "likes" on an Instagram post within minutes, and almost immediately increase follower count, testing by Business Insider South Africa showed.
That boost also elevates the "discovery" of Instagram profiles, which helps drive traffic from real people.
But brands tend to avoid partnering with people with fake followers warns Cornel de Jager, group head of digital at M&C Saatchi Abel.
And an inflated Instagram account can be considered fraud if marketers partner with an influencer, he says.
“We remunerate influencers based on their reach. If they are misreporting that, it’s pretty serious,” he told Business Insider South Africa.
De Jager says marketers spot inflated Instagram profiles by looking at follower count compared to engagement on posts, account followers with incomplete profiles, and the growth of engagement on posts.
“In the end, it’s about common sense: if it looks too good, then most likely money has changed hands,” De Jager says.
Inflated Instagram accounts might have success with one or two brand deals but they usually fizzle out, says Clerissa Visser, senior digital content manager and strategist at a digital consultancy Platinum Seed.
With the growth of micro-influencer marketing (the use of Instagrammers with fewer than 1,000 followers) brands tend to partner with influencers which have a natural loyalty to the brand rather than those with massive followings.
“The quality route generally will get you noticed by bigger brands and better-quality partners, and includes consistently high-quality content that is sustained on an ongoing basis,” Visser says.