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Fast-food brands have the highest proportion of fake Instagram followers

By John Glenday | Reporter

November 11, 2021 | 4 min read

Fast-food brands are the most likely to play fast and loose with their social media accounts, according to a new report that names and shames brands with the greatest propensity to have fake Instagram followers.

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Pizza Hut tops the list, with 30% of its Instagram followers being classed as bots

Compiled by Sortlist, the Brussels-based curator of global agencies, the hall of shame is dominated by Pizza Hut, where 540,000 of its 1.8 million followers (30%) are classed as bots, putting it in first place for the unwanted accolade.

No less than eight restaurant chains dominate the top 10 brands with the most fake followers, with KFC, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s and Krispy Kreme all battling it out for the second spot with a joint 28% share of ‘suspicious’ accounts.

In absolute terms, however, it is Victoria’s Secret that takes top billing with 28% of its 70.5 million followers classed as fake, with lingerie fans outnumbering the followers of chicken, burgers and doughnuts by a wide margin. All other contenders for the second spot could muster only between 1-2 million followers apiece.

Rounding out the top 10 in joint eighth place are Nike, McDonald’s and Taco Bell, with the integrity of 27% of their 177.6 million, 4.2 million and 1.5 million respective followers thrown into question.

Tech giants had the lowest share of likely fake followers, with just 20% of Apple’s 26.6 million followers being red-flagged, placing it at the honest end of the table.

In a blog post, Sortlist explained: “Bots or fake followers on Instagram are an issue and can cause a problem with commercial value and accurate representation. Social following can have a huge monetary value to celebrities and brands, who now employ top social media agencies to maximize their number of followers, but how many of these millions of following accounts belong to a real person?

“We wanted to find out which of the most followed brands and people are actually as influential as they seem, and which are faking it until they make it.”

The rankings are based on a study of 320 Instagram accounts across a range of industries, with auditing tool Grin used to ascertain the audience credibility of popular accounts with an estimate of potentially fake followers.

Instagram has previously sought to clamp down on fake followers, but to little effect.

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