Though social media networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter attempt to verify every user‘s identity , their algorithms are far from perfect. As a result, most businesses and brands have a number of fake followers — in some cases, tens of thousands. Even a personal account set to private could have stalkers who aren’t who they claim or appear to be.
To understand the gravity of the problem, let’s look at the following statistics:
- Twitter deletes as many as 7.5 million fake user accounts every week.
- Facebook deleted 2.2 billion fake user accounts in the first quarter of 2019.
- Instagram has 95 million human forgeries lurking its digital universe.
In this article, we’ll take a brief look at why businesses and individuals should audit their social media followers to remove fraudulent accounts. We’ll also give you some easy tools — like Spokeo — to help you investigate your followers and ban the fake or potentially dangerous ones in a flash.
But first, let’s look at the common sources of fake followers that could be jeopardizing your internet safety.
Where Do Fake Social Media Followers Come From?
Here are the most common sources of fraudulent social media followers:
- You bought followers before knowing it was a bad idea. Today, most people know that buying social media followers — either through a follow-for-follow reciprocity program or spending money for new fans — can seriously hurt your brand. But several years ago, this knowledge wasn’t so apparent. Many people still have these acquired followers, made up of fake accounts, lurking on their own accounts.
- You have stalkers pretending to be someone else. Whether it’s an ex-lover, a secret enemy, a snooping boss, a lawyer trying to get dirt on you for a legal case or even your mom, you could have fake accounts on your social media pages keeping tabs on you. Unfortunately, this kind of shadowy behavior has become more common than ever in the digital age.
- Shady bots are collecting your information or selling products and scams on your site. Fake accounts could also be following you to collect your information, perform market research and target you with manipulative advertising — even election-influencing propaganda. These bots could also be following you to reach out to your users with scams and unwanted advertising.
- Unscrupulous people want access to your followers. Fake accounts run by fraudsters and unscrupulous advertisers could be reaching out to your followers in private or publishing replies to your posts to scam or sell products to your network.
Why You Should Purge Fake Followers Immediately
Knowing where fake followers come from should be enough to make you want to ban them forever for internet security reasons. But if you’re a business, they are also negatively affecting your brand. Here are the most important reasons to ban fraudulent accounts from your list of followers:
- Engagement doesn’t reflect the number of followers. Engagement is an important metric for measuring the success of your social media presence. If you have 1 million followers but your posts are only getting a handful of likes, it’s pretty clear that your account is loaded with fake followers — and that will seriously affect the trustworthiness and success of your business.
- Bot comments disrupt user engagement and spam your page. Fake bot comments could appear like nonsense, or they could be promoting the products of competitors and fraudsters — creating unwanted spam. These comments will disrupt the conversations you want to have with your real followers, destroy your credibility and cause you to lose authentic followers.
- Fake followers don’t help your account and they don’t make money. Fake followers don’t buy your products. They don’t share your social media posts with others. They don’t create engaging conversations or interactions.
- They can be dangerous. As already referenced, fake followers could be anyone from stalkers, slighted lovers or snooping employers to fraudsters who want to scam your friends, family and other followers. Removing them makes your social media account more secure for you and everyone else.
How to Identify Fake Social Media Followers
Here are four of our favorite tools for identifying and removing fake followers:
Spokeo is a people search tool that uses data from both online and offline sources, including 12 billion public records. It’s particularly useful for investigating followers you don’t recognize on your personal social media accounts (even MTV’s Catfish uses it to help the subjects of each investigation discover if their love interests are who they say they are).
A quick search of your potentially fake follower’s name can either confirm their identity (meaning they aren’t fake after all!) or confirm your suspicions.. Spokeo will provide background information and you can decide whether to ban them . If it’s a fake person, the name may not show up on Spokeo, and you’ll know to ban them immediately.
2. Fakers App for Twitter
The Fakers App is a free tool that lets you scan your Twitter followers on up to eight accounts. It analyzes everyone following your Twitter account and produces a report. By using special metrics to analyze your followers and their Twitter activities, the Fakers App identifies whether they are fake, inactive or good.
It’s a great practice to purge your Twitter accounts of all the fake users that this app identifies. If you want to be extra safe, block the inactive ones too.
3. Cleaner for IG
Cleaner for IG is similar to the Fakers App, except it focuses on cleaning up your Instagram account of fraudulent users and bots. It identifies suspicious accounts based primarily on how often they interact with your posts and profile.
However, you might want to review the accounts it flags before automatically deleting them. You might find a few friends and family — or even loyal followers — on the list simply because they’re not very active Instagram users.
4. Graph Search for Facebook
One of the best ways to purge your Facebook accounts of false followers is to review your follower list for suspicious-looking accounts. Although it could take a couple of hours to go through your friends list, this is a great option for a personal account with between 1,000 and 2,000 friends.
When you find a person you don’t recognize, visit the profile to see if it looks inactive or suspicious. Then do a Spokeo search to do a name or email look up to figure out if you’re dealing with a real person, and block anything that looks out of the ordinary.
For larger Facebook accounts, you can use Facebook’s Graph Search to organize your friends and followers under different characteristics to look for potentially suspicious accounts. For example, based on the following statistics, you might want to start out your graph search by focusing on female profiles from certain countries and looking for unfamiliar ones:
- 97% of fraudulent Facebook accounts show their gender as female.
- A lot of fake accounts show their location as Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Pakistan or the Philippines.
With Graph Search, you can focus on other stats that you think are unusual for your friends and followers to identify and block additional suspicious accounts.
At Spokeo, we’re passionate about internet safety and assisting businesses and individuals in protecting the security of themselves and their followers. It only takes a few seconds to check up on someone’s identity with our search tools. Bookmark our site so you have it in your back pocket as a resource to investigate suspicious accounts on your social media profiles.
Along with his fascination for emerging technologies like internet technology, blockchain, encryption, and the laws and market trends that follow them, Jeremy Hillpot’s background in consumer-investor fraud litigation provides a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including website tech, investments, startups, cryptocurrencies and the law.