The influencer landscape can be a risky one to navigate for marketers. One of the most beneficial parts to working with an influencer marketing platform is making use of technology that will vet influencers for you. You may find someone that appears to be the perfect profile, but digging deeper can tell a different story. Technology in influencer marketing has come a long way and we are now able to identify fraudulent activity on influencers’ pages. Becoming a professional influencer has become an extremely sought after career for millennials and gen z, and there are extremes they are willing to go to to make that career work. Don’t be too alarmed but do go into your influencer discovery with eyes wide open and be aware of the risks. Here are some of the biggest red flags to look out for when vetting and leveraging influencers.

1.Purchasing Followers

Purchasing followers is perhaps one of the biggest things to watch out for in the industry. It has been around since the idea of being paid as an influencer has existed, but recent over-saturation of influencers as well as intense competition has driven even more influencers to make poor decisions. However, there are many tools out there now to help ensure marketers aren’t partnering with these kinds of influencers. Even without technology, there are easy ways to see if this is happening. The simplest way is by calculating the ratio of followers to likes as well as the engagement percentage. If a influencer has 15k followers, but is only receiving 60 likes on an image when we would expect around 300, the numbers don’t add up. If engagement is anywhere below 1%, especially for micro and mid-level influencers, it’s best to double check if followers are being bought. When working with a platform like Mattr, you can view how many followers have been purchased and where those followers reside. These are ghost followers, purchased to show that high impression number but not really doing anything on an influencer’s page.

2. Buying Engagement

Unfortunately, the dishonesty doesn’t always stop with influencer reach. Some influencers have gotten wise with fake followers knowing that brands and agencies are now looking more at engagement than reach. And also noticing if followers have been bought. Their resolution for this is to purchase engagement. We’ve done an experiment on just how easy it is to purchase likes and comments for your page. Anyone can do it and it only takes about 10 minutes. You can do the same calculation as with bought followers but in the case, use the inverse. So if you see extraordinarily high engagement on a low follower base, the influencer may have bought likes. Another easy way to look for this is to read some of the comments. Do they even relate to the post? Bots are setup to automatically comment on posts, but don’t always match up with what is being posted about. The last manual way is to check out the quantity of likes and comments on posts over time. Check engagement rates for the last year and find the average, rather than just look at their last few posts. Is there a huge spike in likes, but just on their last two posts and yet their reach remained the same? Maybe a couple weeks ago their average was 100 likes an image but now they are getting 2k; this could be an indication that these likes are not real.

3. Faking Content

Another watch out, is influencers who fake their content in order to gain followers and increase their status. These followers and likes may now be real, but it’s because the audience believes an influencer to be living a life that isn’t actually based in reality or genuine. Certain “influencers” have stolen content from others’ profiles, created fake realities, and in some cases even photoshopped or straight up completely fabricated travel images to be seen as a top tier travel influencer. This can sometimes be a hard issue to combat. The best way to ensure an influencer’s content is real is to study them: check their blogs and other social channels and make sure they are legit with their audience before moving forward. Does their blog provide more details to their travels? Do they images that don’t look to over-the-top edited? Read what their audience is commenting and see if they are engaging back.

4. Too Much Sponsored Content

Although this isn’t necessarily an indication that an influencer has purchased content or engagement, a red flag to watch out for before choosing to partner with an influencer is making sure they don’t have too much sponsored content. When an influencer is posting sponsored content all of the time, everyday or every other day, it can become white noise to their audience. It becomes apparent that they don’t feel strongly about these products but rather that they’re willing to take any deal they can. These people usually have well-deserved low engagement rates, as well.

Not only is their audience not taking notice of sponsorships, the influencer will lose credibility with their followers. It can come off as dishonest when they are posting new products constantly, especially if those products are competing brands and an influencer has now contradicted their loyalty to a certain company.

5. Faking Sponsorships

I don’t know if we thought we’d ever see a day where an influencer would actually fake sponsored content in order to be taken more seriously, but that day is here. Certain influencers have actually made up brand partnerships in order to gain credibility. Like faking content, this can be a difficult red flag to catch right off the bat. But the more research you are able to do on an influencer, the better. Question their brand partnerships if they look fishy. Faking sponsored content may have good intentions, but it can also show inauthenticity.


Becoming an influencer is like becoming famous nowadays, and many people are willing to go too far to make that happen. Whenever activating your own influencer campaign, you want to ensure that you’re choosing influencers who are authentic and genuine – and honest. If you are just running a few campaigns a year and are willing to take the time, you can run these manual “tests” on an influencer’s profile. If you are a brand or agency looking to work with a lot of influencers often, you will want to find the most genuine and authentic ones around, so look for these red flags and work with platforms that give you the technology to dive deep into influencers’ accounts to ensure their credibility.


MATTR is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.