How to Spot a Fake

The way I look at it, there are two kinds of fakes in social media. The first are the accounts that are “fake” and are purchased to follow someone or a company. The second are the companies or brands that purchase these followers to look popular but don’t do anything productive on their sites. These second types are the ones I want to talk about.

Now, you very well may know of someone who has purchased followers for their social media sites. I’m not here to judge that practice so long as they use their sites properly. If it’s important to them to start out with big numbers but their goal is still to engage with their audience in a rewarding fashion, then so be it. I don’t condone it and I won’t buy followers, but to each their own.

However, I do have a problem with brands that go out and buy a bunch of followers to look like they’re awesome but they don’t have any rates of engagement. They basically set up an account and then leave it there. They may post occasionally but they don’t respond to comments or questions. These, to me, are FAKES. They are faking their way in social media in hopes of having you like their page so that they can shove their message at you.

So, how can you determine which accounts are this type of fake? Let’s take a look:


There are two key numbers you need to look at on a company’s Facebook page: The number of followers and the number of people talking about them. The talking about this number is right beside their number of followers. Why do these numbers matter and what do they mean?

The number of followers is simple: this is the number of accounts on Facebook that have “liked” this page. At first glance you might look at this and think, wow! this company has 10,000 likes, they must be awesome! But before you say that, take a look at that little number next to the followers.

The number of people talking about this is the number of people who are engaging with this brand. Facebook defines this as: “This is the actual number of people who are ‘engaged’ and interacting with that Facebook Page. The people who actually come back to the page *after* liking the page. This include activities such as comments, likes to a post, shares, etc by visitors to the page.” And that’s why this number is so important!

Let’s look at an example. Say you see a company with 10,000 likes but only 150 talking about it. That means only 1.5% of the followers are actually engaging with the brand. Now, to me, that is not a good ratio! If less than 2% of my fans are commenting on or liking my content, I’m doing something very wrong!

Facebook does provide some guidelines on ideal ratios to help you out. They indicate that for brands with less than 100,000 likes, engagement over 10% is considered good. And for brands with more than 100,000 likes, engagement over 5% is considered good.

Even after you’ve looked at these numbers, this may not tell you everything. You should scroll through the company’s page. Look to see what kind of posts they put up and what type of engagement they create. Are their posts related to their business or are they just putting up random funny memes twice a day? Why does this matter? Well, great memes may generate lots of likes, comments, and shares, but are they valuable to the company’s business or just to keep high levels of engagement? A good company Facebook page will provide a mix of content, relevant to the business and industry, and should serve to help you learn while entertaining you.

You should also be looking to see how the brand responds to the audience. Do they just post and then forget or do they respond to the comments? A good brand will take the time to answer and respond to audience comments on posts. A “fake” will leave you hanging.

It’s also important to look at the frequency of the posts. Do they post 5 times on one day and then go dormant for a week or more? If so, this is a brand that is not actively engaging with their audience. They are only here on the times that it’s convenient to them.

Be wary of the companies that exhibit these issues, they don’t really value your follow nor your engagement.


One of the great things about Twitter is how easy it is to get followers. Especially if you’re a legitimate person or brand. It’s really this simple: follow someone and if they like what you have to say or do, they will follow you back. But we often see brands or personalities that have tens of thousands of followers and they only follow a few hundred back. Now, discounting celebrities or professional personalities of a certain stature, this usually makes me wary. I obviously don’t expect Lady Gaga or Tony Robbins to follow back each of their millions of followers. But when it comes to a smaller brands or people, I find it odd when their follower to following ratio is largely skewed.

So how can you know if the followers are legit, real accounts? It takes about 1 minute to do full check. Go to the Followers section to see who is following the brand. The first dead giveaway that the followers are purchased is if you see a whole lot of them with “eggs” for profile pics and handles that look like this: @Kifkizainulha.

Another way to determine if a Twitter account is faking it is to look at their tweet history. Do they only post their own content? Or do they share other people’s content? If a Twitter account is only tweeting twice a week and it’s always their own product, why would you want to follow them? They have no interest in engaging with you and they don’t value your posts, unless you retweet theirs.

Twitter is one of the greatest networking tools available these days and profiles that don’t follow back their fans and don’t engage with their audience and feel the need to purchase followers to look good, are always questionable in my opinion. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t have some of these accounts on my Twitter profile, I probably do. But I am always more wary up front and take time to determine the real value in following these profiles.

For more information on how many users are actually active on popular Twitter accounts, here’s an interesting infographic.


Just like with the other sites, some companies or people on LinkedIn feel that popularity is the determining factor in their success. By having that 500+ number of followers, they think that you’ll jump on their bandwagon and that they’ll rank higher in search results. While they may rank higher in search results in general, plenty of people with 100-400 followers can easily rank higher than them.

LinkedIn is about connections and engagement, just like other sites. If you are active in groups and conversations, you post regularly, and you have the right key words in your profile, you can easily rank higher in search results than a person with 1000 connections and no interactions. And yet, rather than doing it the right way, these people “buy” connections to try to take the easy way to the top.

It’s not as easy to spot the fakers on LinkedIn as it is on other sites but it can be done. When you go to a person’s profile the number of connections they have is listed near the top. Clicking on this will take you down the page to their list of connections.  Here are things to look for to spot their fake followers: lack of profile photo or use of a stock image, their names spelled all in lower case or upper case, simple and generic names (like John Jones), lack of information in their profile descriptions or poorly spelled and laid out profile information, and generic company or resume history.

The risk you run on connecting with a fake on LinkedIn is a little more concerning than on Twitter or Facebook. Your LinkedIn profile usually contains much more specific information about you than you put on your other sites (job history, job experience, contact information, etc.). Always make sure that you are connecting with real, verifiable people on LinkedIn.


It may be selfish, but I believe that my time and interaction is valuable. Even if only to me. So, I am always cautious about following brands that seem to be faking it to make it. However, those brands that engage with me and value my time, no matter how large or small, will usually get my preferential treatment.

You are free to follow and engage with whichever brands you find online. But if you too are wary of fakes, follow these guidelines above to minimize the number of bad accounts you follow.


If you found this information useful, please share it!


Photo credit: Graur Codrin


2 thoughts on “How to Spot a Fake

  1. And there are the “Social Media Expert” fakes…
    I have spend so many hours weeding out people, watching webinars and reading sales pitches. *ugh
    I know of at least one local case that promises just one little change on your fanpage and it’ll boost your numbers through the roof! Then you look at their advertised fb insight (used to “prove” all this) and there is often no posts at all!!! So you have new followers and you have increased “talking about this” but no post?! Means these likes where bought, not a good strategy for someone that is supposed to build your Social Media Presence…
    I am happy to have found you Jenn! Down to earth, honest and serious about what you are doing!

    Thank you for being right here on the frontline with me to uncover all the things “just not right”!

    • You’re right Yvonne! It’s crazy to me when someone claims to be an expert but can’t manage their own pages!
      I am glad we have found each other as well and look forward to getting to know you better and finding more ways to collaborate.

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