Have you ever logged into Instagram and seen something like this?
Let’s face it, we all have. In the rush to become Insta-famous, many people are sucked into the allure of quickly boosting their followers, likes, or comments. Unfortunately, people who fall for this trap fail to properly weigh the pros and cons to see how buying fake social media engagement stacks up against building a natural, organic following.
Here’s why you should exercise extreme caution when tempted to artificially boost your social media account.
Brands Hate It And You’ll Lose Money
Many social media influencers attempt to inflate their follower numbers or their post likes/comments to attract brands and make money off of sponsored posts. But brands are becoming increasingly savvy to this strategy, and smart brand managers are now refusing to pay for sponsored content that appears to be artificially inflated.
“It depends who they are and how active their audience is with them,” says Nicole Frusci, the senior vice president of marketing for Benefit Cosmetics. In an interview with WWD, she said that her company may choose to not work with you if just 10 percent of your followers are fake. She also noted that brands like hers no longer look just at pure numbers. Instead, major companies are watching for influencers with genuine engagement, including the number of comments on a post and how authentic those comments appear to be.
If you’re tempted to artificially boost your likes, comments, and followers in order to catch the attention of brands, be warned: doing so could actually sabotage your success.
If You’re Buying Followers, You’ll Alienate Your True Followers
It’s called social media for a reason: to be social. And if it just becomes a giant muddled mess with bots engaging with each other, real human followers will be instantly turned off.
More and more of your followers are aware and watching for signs of inauthentic activity. After all, they themselves have likely been the target of pitches to buy fake follower or fake likes on their own accounts. If they see your follower count jump dramatically, they won’t hesitate to click the “Unfollow” button. They’ll likewise unfollow you if they see that the ratio of likes on a photo seem wildly off, or that most of the comments are “This is awesome” or similarly generic phrases.
In your effort to buy fake followers to attract the attention of real followers, you might have just lost them all.
You Could Get Shadowbanned
A shadowban is when your posts no longer show up in the hashtags you’ve posted or in the public feeds. It essentially cripples your social media clout. While Instagram is notoriously tight-lipped about its business practices, social media experts say that inauthentic, bot-like behavior on your account could negatively affect your rankings in Instagram’s algorithm and even get you shadowbanned.
You’ll Get Hit by the Next Instagram Purge
Don’t think that Instagram doesn’t see you buying up fake social media engagement. Every few years, it goes through a massive purge to get rid of fake accounts and fake engagement. No one is immune, not even celebrities who have bought followers. A few years ago when Instagram did one of its latest big purge, millions of fake accounts were deleted.
Justin Bieber lost 3.5 million fake followers and the rapper Ma$e lost 1.5 million followers. The latter got so much flack from people laughing at his inauthenticity that he was forced to delete his entire Instagram account.
Is There a Better Way?
In the end, it’s always better to be authentic. Your fans will notice it, and even if it takes a little longer, you’ll be rewarded by a higher ranking in Instagram’s algorithms and you’ll get more sponsored content opportunities from brands. Persistence and consistency is key. There are no shortcuts to building a solid, highly engaged following.
So the next time you’re browsing an account and feel a little jealous at their massive following, take a look at their actual engagement.
It’s easy for you (and other people) to tell if they’re buying fake engagement:
- On their posts, low engagement compared to a high number of followers
- On their posts, high engagement that’s disproportionate to their number of followers
- In their follower list, lots of private accounts or accounts with zero posts
- On their posts, lots of comments that sound like spam: “I like this!” or “Great post!” are common
If it seems disproportionate with the number of people following them, rest assured: karma is right around the corner.
Want to put these tips into practice and make money creating beautiful content? Join #ThePaidCrew community and start working with world-class brands.
By day, Josh Duvauchelle is the co-founder of Frey Union, a marketing firm in Vancouver, BC. By night, he’s a health and wellness coach featured in Teen Vogue, Men’s Journal, Shape, Men’s Fitness, and more. Find him on Instagram under @joshduv. Josh is a member of #ThePaidCrew editorial team.