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How to spot a phony social media influencer

People who manage Facebook pages for various businesses have discovered that the number of fans who view and interact with their blog posts has significantly decreased during the last few years. It all began in 2014, when Facebook's VP of advertising technology noticed that too many people are publishing content, and this was cluttering Facebook's newsfeed. So, the company has decided to do something about it.

Others have stated that Facebook has reduced its users' organic reach because it wants them to purchase more ads.

I humbly assume that both parties are right. Still, the change has significantly affected small business owners, who don't have large advertising budgets. Not only that, but paid ads have become more and more expensive in the last few years, and it looks like costs will continue to grow in the future as well.

So, how is a small business supposed to advertise its products or services? By using the services of a social media influencer, of course! Basically, you contact people who have huge numbers of followers on the top social media platforms, you pay them, and they post links to your articles, lead generation pages and/or products in their newsfeeds.

Still, some of these so-called influencers can be quite dodgy. They use armies of bots to quickly increase their follower counts, and then they use other types of bots to simulate activity. And with so many clever artificial intelligence platforms, it is not a surprise that some of these fake influencers manage to trick even huge corporations into using their services.

Therefore, it is crucial to be very careful when you decide to spend your advertising money this way. Here are some of the things that should help you spot a phony social media influencer right away.

1. They have a huge number of followers, and yet their accounts don't show a lot of activity. It is quite easy to boost the number of post views, likes and retweets using an army of bots, but it is much harder to make the same bots post intelligent comments. So, if your influencers' posts have gotten hundreds of likes, but very few comments, you should avoid them like the plague.

2. Many of their followers are bots, and not real humans. Be sure to check out at least a few dozens of follower profiles. Do those people have legit looking accounts, including real photos, real information and (most of all) real account activity? Do they post links to other people's articles? Do they respond to other people's comments? When was the last time they shared an article? These are all valid questions, and they should help you determine if the influencer has worked really hard, managing to gather a big number of real followers, or is using automated tools to fake them and fool you.

It is true that most popular accounts will also be followed by a few bots. Still, if you examine the profiles of (let's say) 100 followers, you shouldn't discover more than 10 bots or so.

3. Their accounts show way too much activity. Each time they post a new article, it instantly gets hundreds of shares, likes, retweets, comments, and so on. Things don't happen that way in real life, and sudden popularity spikes are almost always a sign that the person is using an army of bots to simulate popularity.

If you ever encounter a shady social media influencer, you should be able to spot all these issues easily. It is true that you may need to spend a few hours verifying his/her followers, but by doing this, you are going to save a lot of money on the long run.