These days, a strong social media presence is key for many celebrities who want to promote their brand, interact with fans, get their point across, or have their message heard. However, the large number of followers we think some of these famous faces have isn’t always accurate.
In January 2018, The New York Times conducted an investigation into social media’s black market, exposing just how many public figures have fake followers and have even purchased a large number of their followers. From pop singers to politicians to reality TV stars, these celebs don’t have the massive following you think.
1. Donald Trump
Donald Trump | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
We all know the 45th President of the United States loves Twitter, and with so many followers, it appears Twitter loves him right back. But in May 2017, after Donald Trump gained an unusually high number of followers in one weekend, the authenticity of his following came into question.
A browse through his followers revealed many tweet-less and picture-less accounts, all of which happened to join the site the same weekend his followers spiked. Moreover, if you were to enter Trump’s name into Twitter Audit, you’ll find that only about 50% of his followers are actually real.
Finally, another report claimed that when he announced his presidential candidacy, Trump may have bought Facebook likes from “like farms” in developing countries.
Next: This reality star’s following is lower than it appears.
2. Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian | Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty Images
Social media is one of the main tools Kim Kardashian uses to promote her brand, but that doesn’t mean all her followers are legit accounts.
In 2014, when Instagram purged all fake user accounts, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star lost 5% of her following. And, in April 2017, a paparazzo captured an unflattering and unphotoshopped shot of her backside, which looked a lot different than the one she shared on her account, causing 100,000 people to unfollow her.
When it comes to Twitter, over 25 million of the accounts following her are not real.
Next: This pop star has plenty of bots following him.
3. Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber | Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
He may be one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but a large number of the accounts following Justin Bieber are phony. The number of Bieber’s followers on Twitter and Instagram has been questioned for years.
When Instagram deleted all of its spam accounts a few years back, he lost 3.5 million followers. In addition, Socialbakers, a website that identifies fake and spam Twitter accounts, revealed that over half of his Twitter followers were bots.
As of 2018, a quick run through Twitter Audit revealed that of the Biebs’ 105 million followers, more than 30 million are fake.
Next: This singer’s title of “most-followed person” was a lie.
4. Katy Perry
Katy Perry | Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
In January 2016, Katy Perry became the most-followed person on Twitter — or so we thought. Reports later surfaced that Perry’s presence on the site was boosted by bots.
The good news for Perry is that in 2017, with the release of her album, Witness, Twitter confirmed that she did, in fact, reach the 100-million mark after a bot sweep. The bad news is the bot sweep on Instagram revealed that around 46% of her followers were fake accounts and another 40% were inactive accounts.
Next: Trump isn’t the only president with fake followers.
5. Barack Obama
Barack Obama | Pablo Gasparini/AFP/Getty Images
It seems that the 44th President of the United States’ Twitter followers aren’t all legit either. In 2014, a study found that 19.5 million of Barack Obama’s followers were by people who didn’t really exist. According to the report at the time, his wife, Michelle Obama, also had a sizable amount of inactive or fake accounts following her.
The former president apparently cleaned that up and gained popularity because, in 2017, Newsweek noted that 79% of his Twitter followers were real people.
Next: This songstress was also outed after Instagram’s sweep.
Rihanna | Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Singer Rihanna was another star who saw the number of her Instagram followers drop drastically after the site’s spambot purge. The “Work” singer has had a rocky relationship with the photo-sharing platform in the past. The site even deactivated her account at one point for some risqué pictures.
And when it deleted all of its fake users, RiRi was down 1.2 million followers.
Next: Say it ain’t so, Lady O.
7. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey | Mike Windle/Getty Images
Even Oprah Winfrey isn’t above buying fake social media followers. According to StatusPeople, Winfrey can apparently build an empire, but not a strong social media presence. The report claimed that either Winfrey purchased followers herself or someone else purchased them on her behalf in 2013 and more than half of her followers were inactive accounts.
However, since that was years ago and Twitter is more mainstream now, we’d like to think that most of Lady O’s following of over 40 million is legit.
Next: He admitted to having faux followers.
8. Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen | Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company
Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen was really honest when he lost 20,000 followers in the Instagram bot sweep and wondered if it was going to happen across all platforms. Afraid that his Twitter account would suffer the same fate, he tweeted, “I lost 20k followers in the #InstagramPurge . . . Twitter, next?”
Nowadays, Cohen boasts over 2 million followers on Instagram and almost the same amount on Twitter.
Next: She is followed by fake accounts just like her sister.
9. Kendall Jenner
Kendall Jenner | Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Like her older sibling, Kendall Jenner has also been accused of having purchased followers on social media in the past. A report by In Touch claimed the follower-checking app StatusPeople, showed that around 4 million of the model’s followers had accounts that were either fake or completely inactive.
A source alleged that Jenner and her sisters are well aware that the more followers they have, the more they get paid to be advertisers per post. That is the main reason why she and her sisters have been accused of buying followers at one point, so they can ultimately boost their bank accounts.
Next: At least her “hips don’t lie.”
Shakira | Jason Merritt/Getty Images
While Shakira’s “hips don’t lie,” the number of followers seen on her social media accounts are a lie apparently. The songbird was outed the first time in 2012 after it was reported by StatusPeople that 21% of her followers were not authentic.
Then, when the Instagram mass deletion happened and removed accounts belonging to sites like instabuyagram.com and cheaplikesfollowers.info, it was revealed that she lost 150,000 followers.
Next: The rap mogul may have bought some followers.
11. Sean Combs
Sean “Diddy” Combs | Ethan Miller/Getty Images
The New York Times did another investigation prior to the 2018 study on social media’s black market and in the previous study, Sean “Diddy” Combs’ name came up. The report claimed that the music producer got in on the fake Twitter followers business a few years back when his account gained 185,399 followers in one day.
Despite the findings of the investigation, neither Diddy nor his reps ever confirmed or denied if he did in fact buy fake followers.
Next: This is just embarrassing.
Mase | JP Yim/Getty Images for Oath
The star who was likely more embarrassed than anyone by the infamous Instagram bot cleanup was “Feel So Good” artist Mase. The deactivation of all bot users led his account to lose 1.5 million of his 1.6 million followers. Ouch!
The dramatic dip was just too much for him, and he ended up deleting his account all together. He later had a change of heart though and joined again. Nowadays, his Instagram and Twitter account have hundreds of thousands of followers, instead of in the millions. Hopefully, those are all real.
Next: Shark Tank stars even buy followers.
13. Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban | Aaron Davidson/Getty Images
You would think that as a Shark Tank star, billionaire, and one of the most visible owners in the NBA, Mark Cuban wouldn’t need to buy followers, but there was time when he did.
The study revealed that a few years back, the Dallas Mavericks owner allegedly paid for a whopping 59% of his followers, which were all linked to either fake or inactive accounts.
Next: Something suspicious was going on with his account.
14. 50 Cent
50 Cent | Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Hip-hop artist 50 Cent was called out in the same report as Diddy for having lots of followers that weren’t real. The study done by Italian researchers accused the rapper of being part of the high clientele associated with the underground market for fake Twitter followers.
His account showed a good amount of suspicious activity at that time, including the loss of 190,000 followers in one day.
Next: This entertainer lost the most followers in the purge.
Akon | Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Of all the stars who lost followers in the Instagram purge, Akon is the person who lost more than anyone else. Over 3 million bought accounts, which was equal to more than half of his following, were deleted in the memorable purge.
Today, the rapper has as many followers as the number of fake accounts he lost in 2014.
Follow Michelle Kapusta on Twitter @philamichelle.
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