Swachh Instagram Abhiyaan: Exposing so-called social-influencers

Social Media (SM) channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat have always been about reach, followers, numbers, penetration.

Published: 11th December 2018 12:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2018 12:21 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Social Media (SM) channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat have always been about reach, followers, numbers, penetration. These social networks started off as ways to connect with friends and family and share the day-to-day events. Today, with some people managing to have a big following (More than 10k followers), the race to monetise or capitalise on the numbers has begun. Thus the term ‘Social Influencers’ was coined and these were folks who would post about a brand or a place or an event and their followers would flock to the place and drive business to the brand.

However, soon enough, the whole social influencers game became competitive with travel, food and fashion Facebookers and Instagrammers resorting to buying followers to make sure brands give them freebies or pay them for sharing info about them. But now, a new Insta handle called Diet Influencer (Diet_influencer on Instagram) has started noticing how the so-called Social Influencers on Instagram (a newer network as compared to FB and Twitter) have started ripping off brands by touting numbers, which are not translating into any business.

The Diet Influencer says it has the wherewithal to weed out accounts with fake followers and restore sanity into the social networks. Hyderabad Express spoke to them on how they do it and what it will achieve. More about ‘InstaLeaks’ and their Swachh Instagram Abhiyaan mission:

So how new are your InstaLeaks where you are exposing so-called social-influencers with fake followers? When did you start?

All this data had been hidden from the public for a long time. Then Socialblade (best social media tools available online for tracking users across Instagram, YouTube and Twitter) came into the market, which gives out the data of all business accounts. We tried to do this sometime in March this year, but then lost that account when the fake bloggers hacked it  and we couldn’t check the data anymore. But then the API changed again in September and we could see the data. So we launched Diet_influencer again in October. But this time we got a lot of support from the genuine big accounts and grew fast. We got hacked after a week, but our supporters reached out to Instagram and got the account back.

What made you start this whistle-blowing Instagram account?

This has been happening for over three years, but it was restricted to only the celebrities and big bloggers. It was also expensive to buy followers back then and the whole ‘influencer’ movement had not started. Last year, it became dirt cheap to buy followers. There was no particular incident as such but the whole nexus of influencers and PRs fooling brands and followers made us start this. This wasn’t out of a personal grudge or an act of revenge. Being in the industry, we knew this was rampant and we decided to report it.

Which city are you based in? Hyderabad? 

The benefit of social media is that it’s free of location. So we started by reporting accounts from Delhi and Mumbai but we soon had people report accounts from all over the country. Hyderabad came in much later, but now thanks to our followers, we have people checking accounts in every city. 

What is the method you adopt? Is there is a ranking body which vets these accounts before giving the verdict? How do you go about this exercise of weeding out fake social influencers? 

Any account that we doubt or gets reported on DM, we run them on www.socialblade.com. For Instagram, it shows the daily deviation in the number of followers and following. This simple data tells a lot about an account. If the data shows big adds and drops over a month, we know that the account is buying followers. Then we go to the profiles and check their follower list. We look for random Turkish/Russian/Chinese accounts. Even weird Indian accounts can be fake followers. The post likes will also be all weird names from different countries. Once all these check out, we take the data from socialblade and put it on our feed.

Do people ‘buy’ followers actually to be able to get good collabs and deals?

There are a lot of online sellers who sell followers, likes, views, comments, saves and anything else an account needs. With a lot of sellers coming in, the prices have dropped drastically. So now you can buy 1,000 followers for `40-100. Accounts buy followers because more the number of followers, more the reach an account has. But if you don’t have the reach, you at least have the numbers to fool the brands. Hence, when a big account pings a brand for collaboration, there’s a high chance that the brand will agree, looking at the follower count.

Will you be releasing a list of fake accounts and giving it to the people?

Our Instagram feed is a list of the ones we have reported. We will also be making a Google doc where we can update all the names. So that if we lose the account again, the data will still be with the people. This list will benefit brands who can search any influencer before collaborating. Also, budding bloggers can look up who not to follow in their journey.

We even have about 40-50 big verified accounts following us too. Even they feel the pain of being sidelined for a fake influencer with more followers. Now they tell the brand about us and help us weed out the fake bloggers. 

What is the larger good you are trying to achieve by doing this?

We call it the Swachh Instagram Abhiyaan. It’s an amazing platform to share content. It also brings content creators and brand together. But due to these dirty accounts with their fake actions, the whole platform gets a bad name. Genuine content creators also get lost in this follower-crazy scenario. So once we can pass on the message to everyone that how easy it is to check for fake bloggers, the clean up process will start. 

Can people also send you Insta handles and you will let them know if it is fake or true?

We started out with reporting the big accounts that we knew of. As people followed us they started telling us more about accounts from their cities. Slowly,  our list grew and we had about 100 messages everyday. Within two  weeks we made a list of  300 fake accounts and its increasing everyday. Now, a few brands ping us to check on influencers before signing them for campaigns. 

Will you be using the Insta  handle to blow off the lid on other such frauds too?

We started off with reporting only accounts who buy followers. This went on to report people who are selling all these metrics to the accounts. There are even cases of fraud where an influencer took the product and never posted. Our focus is still on reporting fake accounts but then we are open to reporting anything that is wrong on the platform. You can follow us on www.instagram.com/diet_influencer

(kalanidhi@newindianexpress @mkalanidhi)

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