“I’m a digital marketer who wants to expose how so-called influencers use a range of blackhat tactics to convince people they’re worth investing in. To investigate this, I had to become one.”
That’s the opening gambit in a piece by Copenhagen-based digital marketer Jonathan Jeffrey on entrepreneur.com, who goes on to detail just how he went about fooling his way into the world of influencer freebies.
“To grow an Instagram account fast, blackhat marketplaces offer a whole range of services. I used a combination of these alongside rigorous testing to build my account from zero to 40,000 engaged users in just under six months. I’d say about 70 percent of the followers were real,” he explained.
“I purchased a piece of software which would automatically like, follow and unfollow accounts for me. When people I had liked or followed were notified, a certain percentage would follow back.
“I targeted the followers of other travel influencers and brands, only to find that most of the followers were fake. By targeting the followers of other influencers, I would receive a follow back ratio between five to 10 percent. So for every 100 people I followed, five to ten would follow me back. Each day I would follow 400 to 800 people. This number was randomly distributed, tricking Instagram into thinking it was genuine (albeit slightly obsessive) engagement. I would then automatically unfollow a given user a few days later to ensure my account maintained a healthy balance of followers and followings.
“I also targeted users who interact with mundane hashtags such as #photooftheday, therefore building a following of automated accounts that drift through Instagram feasting on any post they see. This meant that when I posted a photo, engagement would be very high proportional to the number of followers I had. Instagram reads this as a valuable post and then exposes it to more of my followers.”
Jeffrey goes on to detail the world of influencer engagement groups, which he describes as “the private members’ clubs of social media”.
He added: “When a member of the group posts a photo, all other members are required to like that photo as soon as it's posted. That tricks the algorithm into thinking the photo is popular. Similarly, all the followers of the other accounts are now served that photo. The goal is to have it broadcasted on Instagram's Explore section, exposing your photo to millions of people. I would get just under 500 new followers in a single day through this.”
The results once all of this had been put into place were stunning. Jeffrey emailed 1,000 New York restaurants asking for meals in return for coverage. 80 replied, and 50 of those were positive. He also noted the high number of PR and marketing agencies handling the requests.
The full post is well worth a read.