Why Brands Shouldn't Buy Instagram Followers & How To Earn a Following the Right Way

by: Dustin Hawley | Tuesday October 15, 2019

If you ever use Instagram (or the internet as a whole for that matter), you've more than likely seen the ads: '$10 for 10,000 Followers | 100% Real Instagram Followers‎” or “Buy Instagram Followers Now | Real Followers Fast.” For businesses struggling to gain traction online and with their social media accounts, or someone looking to become an influencer quickly, these ads can be very tempting. But don’t be fooled. There are many reasons why it's a bad idea to buy Instagram followers.

There are plenty of services out there that allow you to buy up to 1,000 followers for the price of your morning coffee. But as is true in many things in life, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. So why is it bad to buy your Instagram followers? Is it legal or safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment?

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Why You Shouldn't Buy Instagram Followers

We've taken the liberty of covering some of the questions and concerns marketers may have about buying Instagram followers to give you a better insight into what the process entails, and the negative effects it can have on your brand. 

Instagram Recognizes and Eliminates Fake Followers

Instagram wants its users to have a safe, enjoyable, and hassle-free user experience. And the platform puts a lot of effort into finding and deleting these illegitimate accounts. Instagram regularly purges its platform, searching for fake accounts and eradicating them when found. They have considerable experience finding fake accounts, and they know all the signs to look for to determine if an account is legitimate or not.

It may be relatively cheap to purchase these packages of fake followers, but it still overpriced when you consider that these followers are likely to disappear quickly after you buy them. It's just not worth any amount of money.

Fake Followers = Spam 

Another issue with buying fake followers is you never really know what you are going to get. Many of your purchased followers may be entirely fake profiles, but others are just fronts for spammers. When you purchase these fake followers, you are opening up a pandora's box, and exposing your account to a host of potential spam comments. And this may not be limited to strictly your Instagram account either. If you were unfortunate enough to have provided your email address when you made your purchase (or even accessible somewhere within your Instagram profile), you are unknowingly providing an opportunity for these people to distribute their spam to both you and (potentially) your network.

image of fake instagram profiles

These seedy spammers may now have access to your followers and deliver spam to them as well. Some of your followers may even end up following them (likely because they saw you do the same) and when they see what type of accounts they are, your real followers may begin to unfollow you.

Fake Followers Don’t Bring Real Engagement

Don’t think for a second that the claims on these promotions for fake followers that boast "real engagement" or "real comments" are legit in any way. There's never any genuine engagement from your purchased Instagram followers. Often times they aren’t even real people, just fake bot accounts that will give you the obvious "cool post" comment. This is an obvious red flag for spam comments.

Some of the tell-tale signs of a fake follower are things like blank profiles that are missing a profile picture, few to no images shared on their feed, and a general feeling that it lacks any personalization. A lot of them may also have little to no followers but themselves follow hundreds if not thousands of accounts.

Your Engagement Doesn't Look Authentic Compared to Genuine Accounts

As we noted above, it's not very hard to spot accounts that have less engagement than typical accounts of their following size. Genuine Instagram accounts all follow similar engagement patterns that coincide with their follower counts. When you see an account that only has 5,000 followers and their posts are receiving thousands of likes and/or hundreds of comments, it's likely that a majority (if not all) of their followers are fake. 

Comparing the ratio of likes to comments on someone's Instagram posts is the first place to look for fake followers. While there is no "set" number here, odds are that if you see a lot of likes on a post but very few comments, they are almost certainly purchased likes.

fake instagram account

You should be suspicious of any accounts that have an engagement level that varies from the average by a considerable margin. This includes cases where engagement appears too high. Some Instagrammers join groups known as 'engagement pods', where groups of social media users comment on and share each other’s material in order to create more engagement on the 'pod's content. Engagement pods are quite as unsavory as accounts created by bots, but they still offer little to no value to a brand that's looking to build genuine relationships with followers.

Also, if you purchase fake followers who then like and comment on your content, it can throw your engagement stats out of whack, which can make your account look questionable and be a red flag for Instagram to audit your account (and potentially delete it if they feel you have violated their Terms of Use).

How To Earn a Following the Right Way

So we have touched on some of the primary reasons why you should never buy fake followers. But for brands struggling to find traction and relevancy on social media, what can you do to grow a larger, more engaged following? There is no 'one size fits all' solution here, nor is there a secret formula to overnight success. But it is possible to build a following on the platform with a little consistency, effort, and eye for great content. 

Instagram's most recent algorithm change rewards engagement more than follower count and they focus on serving you content similar to posts users have engaged with in the past. To drive engagement, there are several tactics you can deploy to get in front of your target audience.

Utilizing strong Instagram marketing practices -- whether to build your personal brand or your company's -- allows you to reach your target audience more effectively, and gives you a leg up in building authentic engagement. Here are 3 tips to get you started.

  1. If your Instagram account is currently private, switch it over to public so that users can see your profile and content. This allows users to know what your brand represents from the get-go and helps you grow your audience organically when your content populates on users' Explore pages.
  2. Post a variety of content to your feed. Think beyond more than just static images, but also GIFs, high-quality videos, Boomerangs, questions on your Story posts, user-generated content, etc. Building trust and appeal amongst your following starts with using high-quality photos and well thought out captions, then creating a consistent posting cadence while maintaining a unique style that differentiates your brand from others on the platform. Additionally, research which hashtags are trending that may align with your brand -- hashtags can be a great way to reach new audiences if done correctly.
  3. Depending on your brand personality, it's a plus to be funny, witty, or even insightful with your content. Being aware of how your brand is perceived by your potential consumers is important to developing a personality that breeds results. Additionally, being keen on social media trends (particularly Instagram) will provide inspiration when creating and choosing the content you post. This also applies to how your brand interacts with your Instagram community. 

Last but not least, take advantage of all the different channels on the platform, like Instagram Live, IGTV, Instagram Stories, or Shopping on Instagram to post and promote your brand. There are so many ways you can connect with users on the platform, so utilize them all and see which one performs the best for your efforts.

READY TO GET STARTED WITH INFLUENCER MARKETING ON INSTAGRAM?

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