How Fake Followers Affect Instagram Performance
Algorithms determine the content Instagram users see on their newsfeeds. As the algorithms change, the marketing tactics might also variate. On Instagram, for instance, posting frequently and using the correct hashtags doesn't guarantee the content will reach the intended audience.
How the Instagram Algorithm Works
The Instagram algorithm dictates the priority posts users see once they scroll through their feed. Depending on specified signals, the algorithm prioritizes posts by pushing those that are most relevant to the top to ensure they have maximum visibility. In June 2018, Instagram shared information on the various factors the algorithm considers in prioritizing content. The main factors are:
User relationship
Instagram uses user interactions to determine what content a specific user can see. Users that interact with the content of particular posts are more likely to see the same content. As such, Instagram makes repeat engagement and continual posts essential tools for marketing as it builds a loyal audience.
User interests
The interests a user conveys when interacting with others can cause the, to see similar accounts and posts when exploring Instagram. Users engaging in similar interests and content have a high likelihood of seeing related posts.
Post recency
Although Instagram does not prioritize a chronological feed to push the most recent posts to the top, timelines remain a relevant attribute. The platform favors recent posts at the top while older posts might be further down the feed.
Types of fake followers
Instagram has two types of fake followers. The first type agrees to be added to a phony follower list in exchange for some amount of money. The users allow a person to add them to a list of followers, who maybe thousands of people they don't know personally and have different interests. While they gobble up any amount they can, they certainly won't participate in nor promote the user's interests. The fake followers will never view the posts nor engage with the user in any way, as they have no interests in common.
The second type of fake followers are bots, i.e. not real people. A bot is an autonomous program designed to behave and interact with real users in a given manner. In theory, some bots can make nonsensical, automated actions, or comment on and engage in an Instagram post. However, these engagements and interactions mean nothing since bots don't have a thought process. Some may be created using artificial intelligence, but they aren't programmed to use deep learning to learn a user's content. Therefore, some of the engagement could be misleading and end up doing more harm than good.
Effects of fake followers on Instagram performance
1
Mismatched engagement
Humans are highly predictable and will, therefore, demonstrate a similar engagement pattern. All Instagram accounts have a unique engagement pattern; acquiring a list of fake followers may cause an account not stop matching the expected engagement rates. An account with fake followers will generally display a noticeably different engagement average than usual as fake followers will generally not engage in any way, bringing down the engagement rate. An account with 100,000 followers but only 100 actively engaging can raise concerns from the intended audience. Some fake followers might notice the engagement problem and start using bots that make meaningless, fake comments to boost the engagement levels, thus scaring off legitimate followers.
2
Increased likelihood of spammers
Buying fake followers means a user will have to share an email address; doing so opens a user up to increased spam and attempts made by con artists. Actually, most people posing as followers on hire do so to gain access to the user's email address for spam reasons. Accepting a fake follower also provides spammers with access to other legitimate followers. They can use the platform to make spam comments in a bid to trick more Instagram users into visiting malicious profiles or websites. Subsequently, some might unfollow the user to avoid further scam messages and comments, resulting in a diminished number of real followers.
3
Fake followers cannot promote a service or product
Fake followers will not spend money on a service or product. Whether the followers are real people with zero interest or bots (which cannot spend money anyway), the result is the same. They won't spend and this means zero feedback, whether it be positive or critical. Hence, a non-existent engagement rate.
4
Destroyed credibility
For most users, it's relatively easy to spot an account with fake followers. The accounts are incredibly easy to identify for brands and people seeking them for influence reasons - as such, a user that deliberately acquires fake followers is unlikely to be a credible influencer. Ultimately, other people that use the account to promote their services and brands will doubt its credibility, raising questions on the user's ethics. The result is more people opting for more credible accounts.