Model and self-made Instagram star Jay Alvarrez has been in the top 10 of many social media lists, including for having the most followers, but according to a new report from international marketing agency Sortlist, the Hawaiian-born social media sensation now tops a more dubious list. Alvarrez is the celebrity with the most “fake followers.”
Of his 6.8 million followers, upwards of 2.45 million or 36 percent are believed to be fakes.
Alvarrez could be in good or perhaps bad company – as celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Caitlyn Jenner and Nicki Minaji and brands including the Leicester City Football Club, Pizza Hut and Burger King all had a sizeable number of faker followers. In most cases the larger the number of followers, the larger number of fakers – Arianna Grande had more than 70 million fake followers on Instagram according to Sortlist, while even the British Royal family had nearly two million!
The study noted that while it is often hard for celebrities and brands with such significant social media followings to limit the number of fake followers they have, it is also an important factor that brands should take into consideration when working with and more importantly paying an influencer.
If the influencer’s influence isn’t as great as it may appear, it may make it harder to turn impressions into conversions.
“Having ‘fake followers’ on social media could make an influencer or celebrity seem like they have more influence or fame than they actually do, especially when you look at the scale and proportion of fake followers on these platforms ” explained Aline Strouvens, digital public relations manager at Sortlist.
Even as many of these influencers have a huge number of legitimate followers, it is important to note that 100 million plus followers is reduced significantly if 26 percent were actually fake users. Even with a massive following, it is easy to see how this could inflate the perception of influence.
“For themselves this could be beneficial as it could mislead the public into thinking they are more popular than they are, which in turn could increase their likability,” Strouvens added. “There is always a downside – fake followers and bots on social media are an issue because they can cause a problem with commercial value and accurate representation.”
Social followings can grant a huge monetary value to celebrities, brands and influencers, and because of this, brands looking to work with a particular influencer or celebrity may employ the top social media teams and agencies to work on their influencer marketing. If the numbers are artificially increased that can result in far less actual influence.
“On our platform alone we saw a 38 percent increase in companies looking for social media experts – these teams will look into the credibility of your followings and engagement rates and use this as a deciding factor as to whether they will work or ‘collaborate’ with you,” Strouvens told me via an email. “If an influencer or celebrity has extremely high amounts of fake followers and bots this could reduce their chances of getting highly paid brand collaborations and endorsements.”
Social media marketing is an expertise that keeps growing, and Sortlist said it expects to keep seeing more and more specialists in influencer marketing. However, those famous individuals will need to determine how to best address the issues of fake followers if they expect to maintain said influence.
Strouvens added, “We can really see on Sortlist the importance of this expertise for companies and how influencers and celebrities are going to have to work on increasing their credibility in order to gain these top brand collaborations.”