Social media is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to how we relate to… well, anything nowadays. Brands, events, locations, music, events, etc. are all driven by our awareness of their social visibility. There are things you've never heard of on Tuesday that are absolutely must-haves by Friday once you've been exposed. It's not just the brands, we're (obviously) our own biggest sharers –  why else would our favorite races provide professional-quality photos of our struggles, triumphs and pure happiness on the course? They want you to #hashtagthehelloutofyourpictures to promote their events, and you want cool shots to show your former high school bae how bad-ass you are now.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love these action shots. Whether I’m concentrating on the rig, being silly with the bucket, or taking off with a flying side kick over an epic fire, I use Instagram to showcase my love for OCR. I try to maintain a mix of exciting shots, posting 2-3 times a week to keep myself relevant, while not spamming my followers with too many double-tap opportunities. No one likes an over-sharer, right?


Quick background on me before I dive into this article: I’m a public relations manager for an international social media agency. My company develops content and works with influencers to help brands around the world increase awareness of their offerings through strategic social management. I know what it takes to build a strong social presence.

When I started my OCR Instagram account in 2017, I was looking for an opportunity to supplement my race addiction. The cost of travel, race fees, housing, food, and gym memberships added up, and I knew there were opportunities for “influencers” to earn free or discounted accessories. If I could save a few bucks here and there, it was basically a win for me.

Being an expert in social media in my professional life, I knew what I had to do to build a brand for myself, even if I wasn’t the fastest or strongest one on the course. So, after nearly 2 years a few hundred posts, strong engagement and a 100 percent organically grown follower count, I’ve reached my goal of earning some incredible rewards to help keep my hobby alive as I travel the country to toe the line, even more competitively than when I started.

I don’t consider myself a complete “influencer,” but I do like to think I provide an honest take on the products that help me perform at my best. I work with companies that make compression gear and hydration supplements, as well as Mud Run Guide and OCR race organizers without heavily, inauthentically or overenthusiastically pushing products for them.

#influencer or #fraudulencer

Now, a little insight for my fellow Instagramers out there putting together “influencer” accounts that are insincere, or fraudulently growing to snag a coveted sponsorship or brand ambassadorship. While it might seem like brands love when you put their products front and center in your daily posts and stories, they’re starting to realize that some self-identified influencers are actually lacking… well, influence.

We all know THOSE accounts, right? They had a few hundred followers and received a couple of likes here and there, and then, out of nowhere, they ballooned to 20,000 followers and their likes went through the roof! How could it even be possible that 500 people liked that photo that was posted two minutes ago? Well, it’s because those users have “illegally” subscribed to a third-party service, which is a no-no in Instagram land.  You'll find yourself in the running for an account suspension as they look to reduce inauthentic activity.

If you have tens of thousands of followers and only 250 likes on your photos, that’s also a tremendous red flag that you are purchasing followers. Ratios count, people! Also, the follow/unfollow tactic is one of those strange myths that people continue to deploy and, like many of the issues above, doesn’t help your cause.

#engagement #authenticity

You might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, I used one of those follower services a few months ago, so it’s different. I’m still getting a tremendous amount of engagement on my post about my favorite post-workout shake and t-shirt company, and I haven’t paid in a while.” Unfortunately, engagement and followers are a vanity metric in today’s social realm.

If your alleged following isn’t a target of your potential sponsors, the message is lost. Brands aren’t going to send you free gear, or pay for you to participate in events if you don’t provide some sort of return on that investment. You may receive hundreds of likes in the first few minutes of your post, but when brands click to see who has engaged with your photo, they easily see the bots listed in plain sight. They can simply click on any one of them to see they’re not even following you.


Today, brands are more inclined to work with someone who has a strong, true engagement, with less following, or what we call in the industry, a “micro-influencer,” than someone trying too hard to win this nonexistent popularity content.

One of my colleagues wrote a fantastic piece on spotting influencer fraud, and I encourage you all to read it. She even says in another blog, “Although it’s easy to buy followers, filter your photos and game the algorithm to increase engagement, the ability to devise and express a deeper point of view is something that’s still hard to fake. Influencer marketing fails not because it doesn’t work, but because brands invest in the wrong people and wrong partnerships.”


If this article is too long and you didn’t want to read it thoroughly, just remember this one thing: the brands you want to work with know that your thousands of followers and hundreds of bot likes are not going to help them sell products. You look foolish if you pretend to have any influence on an audience when trying too hard to fake it.

If you have any questions about growing an Instagram account, I’m happy to answer them! Slide into my IG DMs!

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Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.