There are a few tell-tale signs

A few years ago, ‘social media influencer’ was not a job. Now however, such influencers are amongst the highest-earning people in the world.

Super-vlogger Zoella, for example, reportedly earns around £50,000 every month, but she’s far from alone and brands are increasingly learning the value of working with people with such sizeable followings.

Last year, Cosmopolitan’s annual Blog Awards was rebranded as the Influencer Awards, and the place where most people exert their influence is Instagram.

If you have a large enough following, there can be big money to be made from just one picture on your Instagram - and sometimes, the deal is actually just for a feature on an Instagram story, which disappears after 24 hours.

According to a spokesperson from Influencer Marketing Agency, Instagrammers with the most followers can earn around £20,000 for a single post.

You’ll know you’re following someone who’s being paid for their posts because they’ll pop a discrete #ad or #spon on the end. 

It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, doesn’t it? So of course, lots of people are desperate to boost their followings in a bid to rake in the big bucks. 

However, some people are turning to underhand and inorganic methods to amass followers. 

Many of the biggest celebrities and Instagram stars in the world have been caught out for having paid for followers in the past - Kendall Jenner, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have all been accused of buying followers. 

In recent years, however, Instagram has been trying to crack down on fake accounts, but this has just pushed people to come up with other methods to boost their followings.

One of the latest is through the setting up of ‘pods.’

Pods are groups of people on Instagram with similar profiles and interests who agree to work together to boost each other’s profiles. 

They all comment on each other’s pictures straight away in order to cheat Instagram’s algorithm and make sure their posts appear high up on people’s newsfeeds.

And this means brands can’t tell whether an Instagrammer’s engagement is real or fake, which is problematic.

One of the most obvious ways to boost your following on Instagram is to use hashtags, and if that’s too much effort, you can use an app such as FocalMark which will actually suggest popular hashtags for each post after you put in a couple.

And if a caption is too much hard work, former Made in Chelsea star Amber Atherton has just launched a new app called Rubric which identifies what’s in your picture and will suggest various captions.

You can also pay agencies for beautiful, professional lifestyle pictures of things like sunsets, breakfast spreads, flowers and pretty walls. 

But making life easier for yourself on Instagram is not the same as amassing followers immorally. Until recently, one tool people used to do that was Instagress.

It was a bot that, for about £10 every 30 days, you could set to comment automatically from your account on pictures that featured your specified hashtags. The thinking was that you’d increase your visibility and thus followers.

Last month, however, Instagress was shut down following a request by Instagram.

There are other Instagress alternatives, but it’s likely Instagram will be requesting for them to shut down soon. If Instagram thinks you're posting spam comments, they may delete your account too.

Of course, if you’re really desperate to boost your online brand or business, you could just pay a company to take over your Instagram, like CrwdBoost. So how can you know whether your fave Instagrammer is really them rather than a business being paid?

How to spot a fake Instagram star:

They have high followers but low engagement

You should be suspicious of accounts who have less than 10 per cent engagement rate of followers per post. For example, if someone has 50,000 followers but only gets around 100 likes per picture, you know something isn’t right.

They post spam comments

One of the easiest ways to spot a fake account is to look for generic comments, tags and mentions. So if someone comments “Nice shot” with a thumbs-up emoji on your picture, they’re probably generated by a bot. Spam comments are usually generic, vague and lack personality.

They don’t post often

If they only post a few times a year but have a suspiciously high number of followers, they’re probably a fake account.

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