Photography: Juliette Carton
Over the weekend, a huge conversation erupted on Twitter about fake followings in blogging.
So here’s my two cents. The short? It’s the lowest, worst part of our community. The long? Well, strap in.
It’s not too hard to spot a fake blogger if you’re a player in the game. I’m a pretty long time player, i’ve been in this industry for over seven years now. When all of a sudden a brand new person pops up at every PR dinner, every press event and PRs are asking you if you know them, sometimes alarm bells are raised. Not all the time, some very genuine and hard working bloggers rise up very quickly – people subscribe because they can see how good the content is, and it snowballs for them – awesome. Other times, ‘bloggers’ create false followings either using unfollow/refollow programs, or they simply buy thousands of followers on their platforms. They then email PRs asking for trips, gifts and invites to exclusive dinners, and those PRs believe their numbers are genuine and they are often then invited. I don’t have much time for people like this, and i’ve never followed them, or felt the need to follow them. It’s just not something I want on my timeline.
It’s the easy way in, and it’s incredibly frustrating.
When you’ve worked like crazy over years on original content, from pictures to videos to heck even website designs, then someone else comes along, steals your look and buys 40,000 followers to look legit – then gets sent across the world to the Maldives – it’s frustrating. Most bloggers you enjoy and love work behind the scenes planning, shooting, ensuring their content is enjoyable, and while everyone works toward goals, usually the number is the last thing checked. I don’t know many of the major player bloggers who sweat it every time a video is uploaded or an instagram pic goes up on their numbers. They’ve got an audience they’ve worked on earning for years, and that audience enjoys their content. Fakers must obsess over the numbers, constantly buying, unfollowing, refollowing and forever trying to fake what that genuine blogger has, and has obtained naturally.
It’s so frustrating for us to then see these fakers social climbing their way to the top, and it’s a topic that really did need discussing. It’s tough to see some intense slandering on Twitter, and I think some of it went too far, but ultimately it is true, and it is something that I think your average audience member wouldn’t know the difference between when finding new bloggers. I certainly didn’t realise the extent of it until it was revealed over the weekend.
What do we do about this?
I think as an audience member there are some tell tale signs you can spot. I think the most glaringly obvious first point, is that usually these fakers don’t have too much creativity of their own, and you may notice their photos are very similar to your favourite bloggers’. They’ve spotted a formula of picture that works and generates likes, and have replicated it. Another easy way to check, is to use the platform Social Blade. It’s free, and you can search anyone’s stats by typing their name in at the top. If their rate of unfollow and following people on instagram is looking a bit outrageous all the time and not just the odd spike of gaining followers, you can soon see that they’re cheating their way to the top.
By the way, this unfollow/refollow thing – what I mean is they download a program (or an app?) which follows loads of people, then unfollows them a few days later. Usually the people they follow are of relevant interest, which they then follow back the blogger, and often don’t realise they’ve been unfollowed a few days later. Thus forth the fake bloggers following grows really quickly, and not necessarily genuinely. Smoke, and mirrors.
This is our livelihood, and quite frankly, it’s insulting.
How no one has called out particular names sooner is definitely a little baffling, but i’m glad the conversation has been started. I’m glad people are standing up for our industry, protecting our lives and keeping the internet a great place for people to enjoy content. If the community were to get out run by fakes with fake followings and carbon copy content, it’d go downhill very quickly – and i’m already worried that it already is. We need more people with passion, love and authenticity to rise to the top, not those who cheat their way there just for a free holiday. It’s not rewarding for them, it’s actually quite a sad way to waste your life, and it’s damaging what little authenticity blogging has left. The media already hates us because we’re threatening to them, let’s not give them a free pass or an easy excuse to continue to bash us left right and centre. Instead lets prove our industry needs space and time to shine, just as deservedly as their magazines do.
I don’t wanna be the asshole that says it, but if you spot something dodgy, speak about it!
If you see a blogger continually photoshopping, facetuning, altering their photos to make them unrealistic, speak up. We speak up about unrealistic airbrushing and photoshopping in magazines – do we really want our real, genuine blogging community to go that way? Where everything is so airbrushed and fake it just makes us feel crap about ourselves again? No. Well, I certainly don’t. Look at this photo above, I could have photoshopped the hell out of my wrinkles, my double chin, my tired eyes and my non existant breasts. But I never would, because I didn’t start this blog to make you feel bad about yourself for the sake of a few likes or to make cold money not caring about anything. Speak up if you see persistent photoshopping, question brands who consistently pay for advertising that looks off in any capacity and stand up for our corner of the internet. Especially if you see a fake following.
Ultimately, blogging is serving a purpose to show you things that are nice, that do look aesthetically pleasing, and will make you want to travel, visit new places and lust after nice things. It’s an enjoyable, informative and lust inducing experience and we love it! But it’s not the place of those looking to rinse free gifts, make a quick buck or con travel PRs out of luxury trips only being viewed by their fake following. It’s sadly becoming a problem in blogging, and this is the last thing myself or any of us want. Lets hope the more we talk about it, the more it’ll stop it happening, and we can continue to enjoy our favourite bloggers as time goes on and it doesn’t see the decline of our happy place, watcher or creator.
Hopefully this post wasn’t too negative, but definitely something that needed to be said. I’d love to know your thoughts on this and if you’ll be looking out a bit more carefully for fake followings from now on! I also suggest you continue to watch and support your favourite bloggers, especially the ones who challenge the norm of blogging creativity, because i’d hate to think of a blogging world where those who are genuinely passionate give up because of how draining it is to see those who are fake rise to the top.
I love our community and I want to protect everyone within it who truly cares and works hard, irregardless if they started yesterday or six years ago. Let me know what you think in the comments, and fingers crossed fake followings become a thing of the past!