Yes this post IS somewhat influenced by the mighty JoJo. If you haven’t heard her new shiz get on Spotify immediately and listen to this gem.
Mainly this post is influenced by discussions I’ve been having out in the Bloggersphere lately about bloggers who are fake. I’ve discussed my experiences before where I’ve met people who, in real life are nothing like they are online. If you want to read about that fakery – feel free. But this is different. These are the FABs we’re becoming more and more aware of. Bloggers who fake their influence.
WHUT? You may holler. Maybe you’re new to blogging. Or you work for a brand. Or you’re a PR and you don’t really understand what this means. Imma break it to you. Some of your faves? Those with swishy locks, tans for dayz and air miles for milez? They are F A B. Fake Ass Bloggers.
So what is a fake following? In my eyes it’s a following that is as hollow as my Easter egg. It’s a number on a page that bears absolutely no substance because it’s either been paid for OR it has been gained through some unscrupulous activity.
Let me break it down further. Influencers can buy followers, likes, retweets, comments and subscribers – just about every type of engagement – for every social platform going. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell when these followers and subs are fake because companies will set them up to look like real people, with real content. But as you become more aware of it, it’s easier to spot.
What do I mean by unscrupulous activity? Well, alongside buying followers, influencers can also buy bots. These bots will trawl Instagram and other social media channels for them – liking, commenting and following which in turn, encourages real people with real accounts to like, comment and follow back. Influencers can often do this themselves. We all know those who follow us on our platforms just to swiftly unfollow moments later.
What does this mean for the world of blogging and how can we spot this FABery?
First of all, how do we spot an FAB? There are a few things to look out for, for sure;
- Has their following spiked suddenly for no reason? We know some get a huge boost when a massive brand regram them but this is SO RARE.
- Do their followers look like real people who’d be interested in their content? Soz but Timmy Vansuelaz from Mexico who has pictures of him hunting deer probably ISN’T interested in your NYX flatlays.
- Do their followers look like people at all? If you trawl through the likes on their last few pictures – how many of those accounts don’t have profile pictures or are locked accounts? Hello little Egg friends.
- Does their engagement have a weird pattern? Do they get 10k retweets on one thing but only 6 likes on the next? Do they have 50k Twitter followers but can’t even muster a like on their tweets? Or on Instagram, does one picture have 80-90 likes whereas the next has 500+?
- Do they get comments? Now, my average likes on Instagram is about 100-200 at the moment. With that, I can get anything between 3-20 comments. But does that FAB have 2k likes on a picture but only 4 genuine comments? Or do all their comments look spammy? Emojis and ‘Great pic!’ as far as the eye can see?
These are just a few things you can look out for. If you have too much time on your hands (like me), you can use sites like SocialBlade and FollowerCheck.co to get more detailed statistics but I’d say approach with caution. For illustration purposes, I looked myself up on Social Blade and it showed me EXACTLY how many people I followed/unfollowed and I cannot dispute it. FollowerCheck said I have about 128 fake followers which is to be expected because I know some bot accounts follow me and I try and sift through and block them as and when I can be arsed. You will see that people will say, ‘You can’t trust these sites,’ but I’d question who and why is saying that. Sunglasses emoji. I will say that a LOT of bloggers and people who work with influencers, that I know, DO USE these sites as a way to check who they’re interacting with. But there are still so many people out in the bloggersphere who are either blissfully unaware OR who just don’t care.
Some people might look at those of us who moan about FABs and say, ‘get a life, why do you care?’ and I could semi-agree with that. Really, in the scheme of life, it DOESN’T matter but for those of us, who work bloody hard on our blogs and channels to feel like we’re constantly swimming against the tide whilst these FABs are sipping Mimosas on yachts, IT MATTERS.
Why should it matter to the bloggersphere?
If you’re a brand, you want an influencer to share your product to a huge audience of people that will then hopefully go and buy your product. You’ve been told that Zoella has changed the world of marketing because 6 years ago, 12 year olds were buying EVERYTHING SHE HAD EVER. It was a model that clearly worked and you wanted a piece of it. GREAT. I know for a FACT there are influencers out there who can wear a product on Instagram one day and then you can’t find it in your size for months (cough THANKS Hannah Gale and that tropical jumpsuit cough). But this ONLY works when that influencer HAS INFLUENCE. Yes you may be thinking you’ve gotten someone with 200k followers showing off your product, which you believe means will transfer to a huge portion of those followers being influenced to buy that product BUT if 150k of those are bought, or not engaged because they’ve been acquired through unscrupulous activity- how many people are REALLY seeing your product?
If you’re a PR, you want to deliver that influencer, with the huge numbers to your boss. We get it. They’ve given you a budget and told you to get the person with the most followers, the biggest reach and the widest audience for that budget. You need to fulfill that task at whatever cost. But what about telling your boss that the influencers he wants have a fake following (if they have) and that you can get them X, Y and Z influencer with a much more heavily engaged audience? When you track THAT return on investment, it’ll come out more favourably and you’ll look like you know your shit!
If you’re a blogger, you want to keep it real. You get enjoyment from engaging with real comments. You love it when someone REAL shares your post and every organic like means something because you know it’s REAL. By keeping yourself from becoming an FAB, other people in the bloggersphere respect you. You get applauded for being genuine and you just like yourself. Furthermore, when these things start coming to light and EVERYONE is looking into who is fake and who is not, you come out with your dignity intact.
What does the future hold for FABs though? It’s hard to tell. When people have called it out on Twitter before, they’ve been harassed by influencers with large followers shouting them down for being the standard, ‘bitter and jealous,’ and then been set upon by the influencer’s fans.
It seems like it’s blogging’s worst kept secret. I mean, you just have to throw out the sentence, ‘Isn’t it annoying when bloggers buy followers?’ and lots of people will reply, ‘ZOMG yes you’re talking about, this person or that person aren’t you?’ We’re becoming aware of the SAME NAMES being repeatedly brought up but never being shouted out into the crowd. But why are these names never revealed? What are we all scared of? That we’ll also get shouted down for being bitter and jealous? Or that we’ll seem unprofessional? How is that fair?
Of course, WE can all sit here and keep it 100, and promise ourselves that we’ll never resort to their means. But when we see one more FAB being sent on a 5* holiday and another at a fancy breakfast, it’s really hard to keep your integrity.
Meanwhile, when you’ve bought your way to 500k and someone else has bought their way to 600k, you’ll keep having to buy and follow/unfollow because otherwise you’ll look even more suspicious because your sudden spurt suddenly stops – it’s a truly gross circle. It’s like cheaters in relationships. Once they’ve gotten a taste at getting away with it – it becomes easier and easier to be shadier and shadier.
So whilst we all stay quiet and PRs don’t really care because they have to deliver their briefs, we can only hope that brands start wisening up to what’s going on. This way, they’ll ask their PRs to bring them influencers with ACTUAL influence, PRs can avoid those they know are FABs and those with genuine, organic followings can jump aboard that bloody yacht.
OR the best thing ever could happen – Instagram (and other channels) could deliver us an actually helpful update which includes wiping out all of the fake accounts and bots. That person with 500k may only lose 100k followers BUT it’ll be that much more obvious as to where those 100k came from.
And if you’re an FAB – just know that we all see you. We all think it’s sad that you don’t value the quality of your content enough to let it talk for you (which is a shame because often your content is incredible). We think it’s awful that you’d happily take opportunities that you know, deep down, you don’t deserve. When brands or others eventually catch you out, it’ll sour your relationships, and finally, it’s quite frankly embarrassing.
PS… Keep an eye out on anyone who goes in on this post. How many times will I be called ‘bitter and jealous’ and by who?