Don’t Buy Your Followers, Just Don’t

The rise of social media has introduced limitless opportunities for small businesses and startups on a number of platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook — even Snapchat. Personally, I love taking advantage of the free publicity that comes with the GlamPod social media accounts. That being said, new pressures have surfaced thanks to these platforms. One in particular stems from the number of online followers startups enjoy (or don’t). Let’s face it: Instagram success is positively correlated to the number of users following your channel. For many, a product simply doesn’t cut it if the social media presence isn’t booming. Unfortunately, this means that many new businesses opt to buy followers, thereby making it look like they enjoy way more support than they actually do.

In the beauty community, you see a lot of follower-buying, because the more followers you have, the more likely brands will sponsor you and send you promo products — who doesn’t love free makeup and skincare? Plus, on Instagram, third party businesses allow users to purchase bundles of followers at a relatively cheap price, so it seems like a no-brainer: We should all buy followers, right?

I get it, it’s tempting. But the negative consequences of buying followers far outweigh the positives. The main downside? It’s pretty easy to tell who has a genuine following and who doesn’t. There are three ways to spot an inflated follower list:

  1. Low engagement. If you have 250k followers, but only 200 people are liking each photo, and each post enjoys around 40 comments, something isn’t adding up.
  2. Hollow follower accounts. You can take a quick scan of an account’s list of followers. If you can spot a number of bots, chances are those are empty accounts that only exist to make followers counts look bigger than they actually are.
  3. Very little influence. When successful users refer their followers to a new page, typically the new page enjoys a surge of new support. If an account has a false following, however, its referrals mean nothing; very few users will visit the newly advertised page. It’s pretty difficult to spot this issue, but if you look hard enough, you’ll see it happen a lot. Imagine if Carli Bybel told her fans to follow an up-and-coming makeup artist. Her followers would flock to the rising star. Someone with fake followers will never have the ability to make or break a new artists online career.

The bottom line is that, although buying followers may seem attractive, social media users can easily spot who has a fake following and who doesn’t. If influential brands realize your following isn’t genuine, they’ll avoid supporting you. In my opinion, it’s better to put in work and cultivate a true following so that your brand can become truly successful. It may take a little longer, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.