08/08/2017
And score sponsorship.

Words by

Veronica Stanford

Ever looked at an influencer’s Instagram and thought ‘I could do that’?

Well, for those who thought they *could* but also didn’t want to devote valuable Netflix hours perfecting their #drape, it turns out there’s another way.

It isn’t news that people can buy fake followers. But, despite Instagram flagging accounts which are suspected of having fake activity, it’s still surprisingly easy to purchase followers and get away with it.

The Instagram influencer market is currently valued at $1 billion USD and that figure is meant to double by 2019. With this in mind, the team at US Influencer marketing company, Mediakix, decided set up two completely fake accounts to see just how easy it is to make it to ‘influencer status’ on a budget of $300 USD. 

The website’s report states they wanted to prove ‘whether or not it's possible for accounts with fake followers and engagement to secure brand sponsorship deals.’

The first account showcases ‘a lifestyle and fashion-centric Instagram model’. @calibeachgirl310 details the life of Alexa Rae, whose bio reads ‘free as the ocean’. Mediakix hired a local model to generate the account’s content in a one-day photoshoot.

The second account, @wanderingggirl, was constructed using only free stock photos of scenic destinations like Yosemite and Paris. To keep this account a little more personal, they also included a few photos of @wanderingggirl herself, using stock images of blonde girls taken from behind.

It took all of one day for Mediakix to have enough content to populate each account. Then, the team went about posting once per day and purchasing followers. To get around Instagram’s flagging of fake accounts, they started off buying only 1000 followers per day. But it turns out they could actually buy up to 15,000 followers per day without any issues from the platform. 

Followers only cost between $3 and $8 USD for 1,000 followers and within two months, @calibeachgirl310 50,000 followers and @wanderingggirl had 30,000.

To keep the illusion, Mediakix also paid for engagement. They spent just 12 cents per comment and $4 to $9 USD per 1,000 likes. For each picture, they purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 15 comments.

After each account hit 10k followers, Mediakix began applying for various sponsorship deals. Over the two-month period, they were able to secure two opportunities for each account. The fashion account secured a deal with a swimwear brand and a national food and beverage company. The photography account scored deals with an alcohol brand and the same food and beverage company. Both accounts were offered payment in the form of money, free product or both.

Mediakix concludes: “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 siphoning [sic] tens of millions of dollars from brands.”

Check out their full report here.

Illustration by TwylaMae.

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