This is how easy it is to become a fake Instagram influencer

This is how easy it is to become a fake Instagram influencer

While most of us know that Instagram can be a deceptive place, filled with perfectly curated images of perfect lives, it's hard to say sometimes what's fake and what isn't. A few weeks ago, one Instagrammer showed how easy it was to trick people on the platform by faking an entire trip to Disneyland.

But while we might feel silly for being duped from time to time, the question of authenticity on Instagram becomes more problematic because of how much money some users can earn. Those with large followings are paid huge amounts by brands to wear their products or mention their company in the caption of a post. This is why many people are trying their own hand at becoming "Instagram influencers", hoping to turn their own feed of images into a lucrative career.

But some people are using sneaky shortcuts to cheat their way into appearing influential, and it's the question of how easy it is to become an influencer that inspired this next experiment. Intrigued by the trend in marketing wherein brands to throw money at Instagrammers, marketing agency Mediakix attempted to become "influential" themselves.

They created two Instagram accounts of "types" that are widely popular – the hip, fashion-savvy Instagram model (@calibeachgirl310) and a travel photographer (@wanderingggirl).

"Alexa Rae", the fake Santa Monica local of @calibeachgirl310, can be seen walking along the beach, drinking coffee and practising yoga all while wearing an assortment of boho clothing. All it took was a single day with a hired model to create the account's entire catalogue of content, spending the day visiting different LA hotspots in various outfits.

instagram influencer blogger travel fashion how easy is it to become cheat bot Credit: Instagram

"Amanda Smith" from @wanderingggirl has a grid of enviable travel locations including tropical destinations and lit-up skylines of big cities. She shares pictures of landscapes, the interiors of luxury hotels, and of herself, sunbathing or gazing out at a sunset view. Incredibly, these pictures were entirely sourced from stock image libraries by Mediakix, who looked for dreamy-looking pictures of popular destinations and the backs of women with blonde hair.

instagram influencer blogger travel fashion how easy is it to become cheat bot Credit: Instagram

With their content ready, Mediakix then started thinking about how they would be able to reach the 10,000 follower benchmark – the number of followers many brands consider the minimum for starting to work with newly-established "influencers". To get this number, the company followed a sneaky tactic forbidden by Instagram, and frowned upon by legitimate influencers: buying followers.

They started by purchasing "only" 1,000 followers a day at a low price of $3-8, so as not to seem suspicious to Instagram (who flags accounts with suspected "bot" activity). They also paid 12 cents per comment and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes, in order to make it seem like people were engaging with their content too. They aimed for 500 to 2,500 likes per photo, and 10 to 50 comments (most of which were a very generic compliment like "love it" or "nice!").

Once each account hit 10,000, sure enough, the deals started coming in. After being able to sign up to exclusive platforms and apps made for influencers with at least 10,000 followers, they could apply for new campaigns each day. In the end, they managed to nab four paid brand partnerships between the two accounts – a swimsuit company for Alexa, an alcohol brand for Amanda, and a food and beverage company deal for both of them. Both accounts were paid with free product or monetarily.

"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 syphoning tens of millions of dollars from brands," Mediakix said after finishing the experiment.

Sure enough, it's alarming to see how easy it is to create a fake account with the tools available, and at such a low price for easy shortcuts, of course it's tempting for people to use them. Keep your wits about you folks, it's definitely not what it may seem out there.