Saturday 17 March 2018

Social media experiment shows how easy it is to fake a successful Instagram account - and make money from it

An image from the fake Calibeachgirl310 Instagram account
An image from the fake Calibeachgirl310 Instagram account
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A marketing agency's social media experiment has exposed how easy it is to create a fake Instagram account - and make money based on its fake posts and followers.

Mediakix created two fake 'influencer' accounts - a "lifestyle and fashion-centric Instagram model" and a "travel and adventure photographer" - using followers and comments they had bought online.

They managed to secure four deals with brands based on those fake accounts.

The first account, called calibeachgirl310, was made by taking pics of a girl in different locations over the course of just one day.

The second, wanderingggirl was made by using free stock images of popular destinations and by using stock images of young blonde women at different travel locations.


A post shared by Alexa Rae (@calibeachgirl310) on

The pages were updated with daily posts and Mediakix initially bought 1000 fake followers per day from websites that sell fake Instagram accounts online.  They soon increased this to buying 15,000 followers at a time.

The practice cost very little - $3-$8 (€.085 to €6.77) for 1000 and the accounts soon reached 80,000 between them - 50,000 for the fashion account and 30,000 for travel.

You can shake the sand from your shoes, but it never leaves your soul 🏖

A post shared by Alexa Rae (@calibeachgirl310) on

"Once we had accumulated a few thousand followers for each account, we started buying likes and comments. We paid around 12 (€.10) cents per comment, and between $4-9 (€3.40 to €5.92) per 1,000 likes," wrote Mediakix on their website.

"On the lower end of that price range, it took around 24 hours for the likes to appear, whereas, on the higher end of that price range, likes were delivered instantly. For each photo, we purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 50 comments."

When the accounts were signed up to marketing platforms they secured deals with brands.

"The fashion account secured one deal with a swimsuit company and one with a national food and beverage company.

"The travel account secured brand deals with an alcohol brand and the same national food and beverage Company. For each campaign, the 'influencers' were offered monetary compensation, free product, or both."

Ciao Italy! 🇮🇹

A post shared by Amanda Smith (@wanderingggirl) on

In a different post they added, "Instagrammers with completely or partially fake followings and/or engagement present advertisers with a unique form of ad fraud that's becoming more and more commonplace and could be siphoning tens of millions of dollars from brands."

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