Buying followers is a shady business that won’t give you the engagement you’re dreaming of
The practice of buying followers on social media has always been tainted. It’s a lazy route to perceived success, and while it can look impressive on the surface to have hundreds of thousands of followers, if they’re not actually engaging then there’s not a lot of point in them adding to your fan count.
With constant algorithm changes, a crowded ideas marketplace and the amount of new talent joining Instagram every day, it’s easy to feel down about your follower count sometimes. Most content creators are always striving for increased follower counts in order to get them more visibility, more access and partnerships, and ultimately more revenue – and it’s hard to be patient while you do the groundwork that seemingly takes a painfully long time, as you watch the money roll in for your peers who have more followers than you.
That’s where temptation creeps in. We’ve all heard of these services – for as little as pounds or pennies sometimes, you can get hundreds or thousands of followers, immediately boosting your audience and making your page look even more pro. Often, these services and companies offer add-ons, like guaranteed likes, or that the accounts will be “real” accounts and not bots, sweetening the deal even further. Some of these companies sell everything from plays on SoundCloud, endorsements on LinkedIn or views on YouTube.
Here’s the thing: you will get caught out. Maybe not immediately, maybe not even in six months. But you will get caught, and it could potentially be more embarrassing and damaging to your reputation the longer it takes for you to get caught. Instagram does routine “crawls” or audits of the app and its users fairly regularly, and if they detect fake accounts and fake likes, they will delete those accounts indiscriminately. Never forget the seismic New York Times reveal in 2018 that countless celebrities, from politicians to film stars to even Paul Hollywood had bought hundreds of thousands of followers for as little as a penny. Once the platforms detect the inauthentic following, though, accounts can drop overnight from 400k to 40k – and all on a very public stage.
However, even if you don’t get hit with an Instagram purge or named and shamed by the New York Times, brands can quite easily tell who has and hasn’t bought followers. There are lots of simple software “scrapers” they can use, or even just a trained human eye looking at your account will know what to look for. Brands may blacklist you indefinitely – no matter how successful you become organically after that point. Or, you might get your account deleted by Instagram.
Is it worth it for a short-time ego boost? So-called “vanity metrics” might get you noticed, but it could be for all the wrong reasons. Fake followers won’t engage with your content (even if the company claims they will, it’ll just be for a post or two), and they could even unfollow you pretty quickly. Having a large following and low engagement looks worse to brands than a low following with high engagement. Basically, there are no shortcuts to social media success – just diligent hard work and really good content.