An influencer marketing agency called Mediakix showed how easy it was to create a phony Instagram star and get brands to pay money for the star to plug their products. They created two different accounts. For calibeachgirl310 they hired a model and photographed her in a lot of different outfits posing in beachy spots. The second account, wanderingggirl, was made completely from free stock photos of exotic locations, some with a blonde woman seen from the back.
Then they bought fake followers for the fake stars:
We started with buying 1,000 followers per day because we were concerned that purchasing too many followers at the onset would result in Instagram flagging the account. However, we quickly found that we were able to buy up to 15,000 followers at a time without encountering any issues.
The pricing for followers ranged from $3-8 per 1,000 followers, depending on the reliability of the service. Websites that sold followers on the lower end of that price range often did not deliver in a timely manner, or sometimes at all, so we switched to more expensive follower providers later in the project. Even at $8 per 1,000 followers, we were able to accumulate over 30,000 followers for the travel account and over 50,000 followers for the fashion account with minimal investment over the course of just two months.
Step three was to buy fake engagement — between 500 to 2,500 fake likes and 10 to 50 fake comments per photo. "We paid around 12 cents per comment, and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes."
Then they registered the fake accounts on various influencer marketing platforms:
We secured four paid brand deals total, two for each account. 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.