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Likes, Comments and Lies: How Some Instagram Users Are Faking It

There has been a lot of talk recently, both in New Zealand and overseas, about Instagram.In particular, how instagram users are faking it in NZ and beyond. To make themselves seem more influential, more liked and more popular than they really are. This is one of the times when faking it until you make it is a bad idea.

For some of us, Instagram is serious business. When you have lots of followers (especially engaged ones), this can lead to sponsorships, paid work, partnerships … it can mean big money if you have hundreds of thousands of followers. If you’re a brand, social media is an important part of your marketing strategy so you want to make sure that you invest your time and money in the best possible way, and influencer marketing is often part of that strategy.

Unfortunately there are some people who try to cheat their way to the top – deliberately misrepresenting the amount of actual influence they have (whether it’s followers or engagement) in order to get money, product or opportunities – that’s not okay. Instagram users are faking it in NZ in a way that harms the brands they represent. In my eyes, it’s straight up fraud. So what are people doing to up their numbers and why is it a bad thing?

Buying Followers, Likes and Comments

HOW IT WORKS: It’s a numbers game – the more Instagram followers someone has, the bigger the audience they’re influencing, right? Well, not if those followers are fakes. Searching “buy Instagram followers” online reveals that it’s pretty easy to buy your way to the top and there are plenty of people waiting to profit off you on the way. Once you’ve inflated your numbers, it seems strange that you have lots of followers but very few of them like or comment on your posts. Well, it turns out that you can pay to have bots like and comment on your pictures as well.

WHY BUYING FOLLOWERS IS A BAD THING: Sure it might look like you have more influence, but when it comes down to it, those fake followers aren’t real people. It’s basically like hiring mannequins to stand around at a party and pretending they’re your friends (which, to be honest, is more than a little strange). If you’re an influencer, those followers won’t go and buy the pair of shoes you’re recommending. If you’re a brand, they’re not going to walk into your store and buy from you (or recommend you to their friends). Not only is this a giant waste of money, but using bots is against Instagram’s Terms of Use, which means that if you’re caught out your account could be suspended.

Comment Pods

HOW IT WORKS: Instagram doesn’t serve up posts in chronological order (much to the annoyance of many users). Instead it shows you things it thinks you will like based on your interaction with other accounts (or similar ones) in the past, as well as how many other people have interacted with the post already. If your new post gets lots of likes and comments soon after it’s posted, then the Instagram algorithm thinks it’s a popular post and will show it to more people. Makes sense, right? Some people try to cheat this system by being part of groups (or “pods”) of people who then go and comment on each other’s posts to make them seem more popular.

WHY COMMENT PODS ARE A BAD THING: The upside of pods is that they are actually real people, but the downside is that they’re usually all fellow influencers also trying to get ahead. You might get more comments on your photo of the latest lipstick a brand has sent you, but many of those comments are from other influencers so that influence it looks like you have? Yep, not real. You might be able to trick a few people this way but trust me when I say that it’s really easy to pick these people out from the crowd (they’re the ones who have the same 10-15 people comment on the post ALL THE TIME). This is particularly rampant in the beauty influencer community in New Zealand.


HOW IT WORKS: You follow someone and once they follow you back, you unfollow them. Sounds like a bit of a jerk move to me! You can also get bots to do this on your behalf, which is how some people manage to follow/unfollow hundreds or thousands of people a day. It’s pretty easy to spot the accounts doing this, using websites like Socialblade – and unfortunately there are a number of influencers in New Zealand using this method to try and get ahead.

WHY FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW IS A BAD THING: It’s disingenuous and you’re essentially trying to trick people into following you. You’re spamming them with your profile in an attempt to get them to follow you. It’s not just influencers doing this, I know that a number of brands are guilty as well – because I get a notification that they’re following me. Every time they follow me. There is one brand that follows me every single week, without fail, and I see it as no different to a creepy guy following me around demanding that I pay attention to him – yuck. Not to mention, if you’re using a bot, you’re breaking the Terms of Use I mentioned earlier.

What should we do instead?

Stop follow/unfollowing and make content that is actually interesting so people will want to follow you for real! Stop using comment pods and start actually engaging with other users. Follow people whose content you love and who you want to support, and make sure you like and comment on their posts regularly. Make your engagement organic and authentic, not planned and contrived. Use hashtags and engage with other people who use that tag – it’s common ground so chances are that if you are creating quality content then they will follow you! Remember that Instagram, like any other social media platform, is about being social: it’s a chance to have a conversation. If all you want to do is post your own photos and not engage with other users then you may as well go back to the days of sending out catalogues to your customers.

If you’re a brand and want to know what to look for when choosing an influencer, how to weed out the quality influencers from the ones that are faking it, or you’re wanting to grow your own following, talk to a reputable marketing agency like Identify. They know social and they know how to spot a fake.

Written by Meagan Kerr.

Meagan Kerr is a plus size style influencer with more than 25,000 people following her on InstagramShe blogs about her life and style at This is Meagan Kerr and is passionate about empowering women.


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