While celebrities and influencers have a large following online, not all of their followers are authentic human beings on the other side of the screen. Some celebrities and influencers buy followers, but why? While Charli D’amelio of TikTok fame denies that she nor her family ever bought followers, it is a common practice to do so to build follower counts and pocket more money. Some influencers can make up to $250,000 per sponsored post, depending on their follower count. While buying followers is not a new concept, it still begs the question: is this ethical? We’re not in the business of answering that question, but we did look into how the idea of fake followers made you feel.
We looked at some of the most popular Instagram and Twitter influencers—probably some you follow as well—to see how many of their followers were considered fake (spam, bots, propaganda, or inactive). We also surveyed 1000 people to get their feelings towards celebrities with fake followers. The results were pretty straightforward down the line, including the 80% who said they would view their favorite online personality differently if they had fake followers.
Some celebrities and influencers get financial kickbacks from products they promote on their accounts. We wanted to know if people would stop purchasing promoted products from a celebrity or influencer if they knew they bought followers. A staggering 75% answered in the affirmative, with only 25% saying they wouldn’t stop purchasing promoted products. Oddly enough, it was an even split when asked if it was fair for an influencer/celebrity to receive free products if their follower amount wasn’t authentic.
So who exactly has the highest percentage of fake followers online? Here are some of the most popular celebrities and influencers on Instagram and how many of their followers happen to be fake.
It Doesn’t Pay to Be Fake
While buying followers isn’t a new concept to celebrities and influencers alike, brands are more aware of the practice, and are considering it before letting celebrities promote their products online. In our survey, we wanted to know your take on celebrities’ income based on their social media followers. 77% of those we surveyed said their opinion would worsen if they knew these influencers paid for their followers. The most overwhelming response came when 83% of the people we surveyed said that a celebrity’s or influencer’s income generated from social media should change based on the number of real followers they have.
While Instagram had quite a showing of fake followers on famous accounts, Twitter seems to take the proverbial cake when it comes to fake followers. On average, the celebrities we tracked had 68% more fake followers on Twitter than on Instagram. The average fake follower percentage on Twitter was 42%, while on Instagram, it was 25%.
We analyzed the top 20 influencers/celebrities that did not have a job in politics/or political association/job (we chose our top influencers/celebrities based on the number of followers they had from Instagram and Marie Claire) with the most Instagram and Twitter followers to determine how many followers were fake. For their Twitter followers, we used SparkToro, a tool that estimates the number of fake followers. Fake followers are accounts that are unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets (either because they’re spam, bots, propaganda, etc., or because they’re no longer active on Twitter). For their Instagram followers, we used GRIN, which gave a percentage estimate of audience credibility. To find the estimated amount of fake followers, we determined the percentage of an audience without credibility.
For our survey section, we surveyed 1000 people through Pollfish to determine if their thoughts and preferences changed based on influencers/celebrities having fake followers.
Interesting Findings and Shareable Stats
- No one can keep up with the Kardashians: Three Kardashians were in the top nine of the highest percentage of fake followers on Instagram, with Kourtney topping the list.
- Faked in America: Most of the celebrities and influencers in our lists were American-born, accounting for 75% of those with the most fake followers online.
- What’s wrong with being confident?: Demi Lovato had the lowest percentage of fake followers on Twitter, with only 19%.
- Fake groupies?: On Twitter, more than half of the celebrities that ranked were musicians, giving a whole new meaning to “fake it ‘till you make it.”
While the online world continues to grow, the need to be liked seems to increase. From sharing your favorite vacation spot to showing off your online gaming skills, we’re all seeking that online clout. And although some influencers and celebrities may buy some of their followers, the vast majority of their clout is very real. From their personalities to their music, there’s no denying the talent and appeal they have is organic. What you do with that information is up to you.
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