Under the Influence

How to Fake Your Way into Getting Rich on Instagram

Influencer Fraud, Selfies, Anxiety, Ego, and Mass Delusional Behavior


Join photographer Trey Ratcliff, of the #1 travel photography blog StuckinCustoms.com, as he exposes the cunning tricks Social Media Influencers use to buy their way into the lucrative, multi-billion dollar world of social media brand sponsorship, world travel, and free merchandise.

Discover the Instagram black market, hidden in plain sight. Meet these fake “Influencers” - with seemingly glamorous lives, but no real sway on social media - who are fraudulently cheating the system by buying likes, comments, and followers. You'll find out how little the social networks and agencies are actually doing to protect major brands across every industry, who these Influencers are defrauding to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

This widespread deception has side effects that are more than just monetary. The seemingly perfect, glamorous lives of these Influencers, combined with social media algorithms engineered to get you to keep clicking, cause many of us to feel anxious and unsettled after using social media.

Go on a deep dive into the social media black market and explore its harmful psychological effects with Trey Ratcliff, a social media insider who has accrued over 5 million followers (170K on Instagram) the honest way. Take a trip through the behind-the-scenes economics of social media, learn how to spot fake accounts, and discover how it’s possible to stay zen on the Internet - without needing to unplug completely.

This book is for anyone who experiences anxiety on social media and is curious about the unseen twisted world inside apps like Instagram.

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“You can often learn how something works by how it breaks. The thing I really like about the book is way Trey shines x-ray beams into a broken system and thereby illuminates how it works. Once one understands how the system works, the reader can then optimize it for good. While Trey educates us on how to fake influence, this book is really about how to create genuine positive influence — and why it is more powerful and sustainable. This is also a tremendous resource for those who employ Influencers, because it gives you different smell tests to discern the genuine from the imposters, protecting your own reputation and money. I'd go so far to say the discernment and media skills entailed in this book should be a required literacy in every high schooler's education. You've heard of critical media skills? This is critical Influencing skills.”

Kevin Kelly, Founder of WIRED and Author of The Inevitable and What Technology Wants

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“I love Trey's beautiful imagery, his body of work and I've even been lucky enough to go on a photo walk with him in Budapest, traveling around the city taking pictures and listening to words of wisdom on both life and photography matters! This book takes an all-encompassing look at the world of social media and specifically Instagram, analyzing what it truly means to connect with your following and the importance of building a real and loyal fan base as opposed to a mere numbers game. As with all things, quality over quantity!“

Tina Guo, CEO of Guo Industries; Grammy-nominated acoustic/electric cellist; recording artist; composer

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Talks at Google: How to Stay Zen on Social Media

The Kevin Rose Show: Photography, forest bathing, buying instagram followers and more

Talking Tech with Jefferson Graham

Additional Articles

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Greg Mcateer - Inciteful, scary, well written, and very entertaining


I loved this book. Completely tears off the lies around Instagram and social media “influencers”. It’s amazing how easy it is to buy your way into this. I’ve known for a long time that these numbers are skewed, this is a great break down of how it’s been done and how it can be avoided. Particularly interested in how Instagram seems to publicly condemn these practices but still enables it to happen. Favorite quote: “I speak for many people when I say I would rather spend my money on Facebook to buy goods and services that I choose, rather than have Facebook and Instagram sell my data and my attention to advertisers.“

Brant Copen - Blew my mind!


The title was modest. This book basically exposes the corruption and black market of Instagram including references, statistics, private investigation, and case studies. The author names actual people on Instagram right now. I bet it has already given many people near heart attacks! The book is also much more though. It discusses the basic problems with the social media systems in general which led to corruption and offers helpful solutions to both individuals and systems. Highly recommended. This book could easily shut down Instagram or at least introduce some massive changes if it were read by enough people.

Alan Morris - I hope my grandchildren read this warning


Very interesting analysis of Social Media's dark side with extensive examples from Instagram. It is tragic that social media can ruin so many young people's lives by encouraging narcissistic behavior. Fooling marketing managers at major brands is the least of my concerns. A fool and his money are soon parted. I am worried about what young people do with their precious lives.

Jason Teale - A well-researched look at the state of Instagram and its influencers


Trey Ratcliff shows that he is more than just a famous photographer but also a great writer as well. This book is well written and shows a great deal of intellect with regards to the topic of Instagram and the people making money off of it. What makes this book a good read is the fact that Trey is not ranting about how bad everything is or telling you how amazing it is as a world-famous photographer. He is actually showing you how people manipulate the system and what kind of effect that has on society. It is a very enlightening and interesting journey that Trey takes us on.

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