You have probably all seen these types of ads: “As low as $4 for 500 Followers | 100% Real Instagram Followers” or “Buy Instagram Followers | Genuine Followers Fast.” If you’re a business struggling to gain online traction, or someone wanting to become an influencer quickly, these ads can look so tempting. But don’t give in. There are sound reasons why you should not buy Instagram followers.
Similarly, don’t be tempted by the ads offering to sell you Instagram likes. They likewise will give you little long-term benefit, and may well harm your account’s standing.
There are plenty of services available that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for the price of a small Starbucks latte. But of course, if it really was that cheap and easy, everyone would be doing it. So what’s the catch? Is buying Instagram followers legal and safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment?
Here, we’ve gone ahead and covered all the questions you might have about buying Instagram followers to give you a better idea of how it actually works. We’ve also explored the pros and cons, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a good move for your brand.
1. Fake Instagram Followers Don’t Engage With Your Account
Don’t for a second believe that you will gain any genuine engagement from your purchased Instagram followers. Sometimes they aren’t real people at all, merely fake bot accounts.
The best engagement you can hope for from these accounts is an automated “nice post” comment.
This is particularly important for anybody who fancies themselves as an influencer. Any brand who chooses to work with influencers will check out the validity of an “influencer” before they decide to work with them.
Clearly, if you want to be considered an influencer, then you have to influence your followers’ behavior. If your followers don’t engage with you, then you aren’t influencing them in any way.
Similarly, if you operate a brand’s account, you will have little use for followers who never engage with your posts. At the very least, you want your followers to look at your posts, even if they don’t like or share them. Bought followers will never see anything you post.
Some of the typical signs of a fake follower include blank profiles lacking a profile picture, few if any images shared, and a general lack of intelligent interaction. Many of these false accounts will follow substantially more people than they have followers, too.
Of course, it is not always as simple as that. The people who run the fake accounts often rely on the law of reciprocity. Most people will automatically follow somebody back who follows them. The fake accounts typically follow thousands of accounts, get almost as many follows back, and then a few days later unfollow people (who don’t notice the fact they have been unfollowed). This keeps their ratios more acceptable so they can go through the process again with another unsuspecting set of Instagrammers.
2. You Have Mismatched Engagement Compared to Genuine Accounts
It is not hard to spot accounts that have less engagement than typical accounts.
Genuine Instagram accounts tend to follow relatively similar engagement patterns. Markerly analyzed the accounts of 2 million influencers and discovered that Instagram influencers with:
< 1,000 followers average about 8% engagement
1,000 – 10,000 followers average 4% engagement
10,000 – 100,000 followers average 2.4% engagement
100,000 – 1 million followers average 1.8% engagement
> 1 million followers average 1.7% engagement
While these numbers are just averages, you should look suspiciously at any accounts that have an engagement level that varies from these averages by a considerable margin.
This includes cases where engagement appears too high. Some Instagrammers and bloggers have joined circles where they comment on and share each other’s material. While these are not quite as bad as false accounts created by bots, they are still of little value to a brand wanting to build relationships with genuine influencers.
Similarly, if you buy likes, it can push your engagement statistics outside an acceptable range, and make your account look questionable.
Another way you can spot false engagement is comparing the ratio of likes to comments on the photos somebody shares. While there are no “tight” ratios here if you see a lot of likes but few comments on a series of posts, then it is likely that the Instagrammer has bought likes.
4. Bought Followers Bring Spam with Them
While many of your purchased followers are entirely fake, others are fronts for spam. By buying these fake followers, you are opening up your account to buckets of spam posts. This may not just be on your Instagram account either. If you provided your email address when you bought the accounts (or even have it written on your Instagram profile), you are providing another opportunity for these people to spread their spam.
These spammers now have access to your followers to deliver your spam too. Some of your followers will follow them (merely because they see you have) and when they discover the quality fo these accounts, your genuine followers may unfollow you.
5. Instagram Recognizes and Purges Fake Followers
Instagram wants its members to have an enjoyable user experience. Therefore it puts quite some effort into finding and eradicating false accounts. Instagram makes regular purges, searching for fake accounts. They have considerable experience of finding fake accounts and know all the signs to look out for.
You may not think that you have paid much for your followers, but it will still be too much if these followers disappear soon after you buy them.
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Viral Nation is a new media innovation group that powers the social ecosystem through integrated solutions that align strategy, talent, media, and technology. As pioneers in the influencer space, Viral Nation is comprised of a full-service creative agency, a creator and athlete-influencer representation agency, and a technology division creating modern marketing solutions for the social media age.