Should You Fake It?

I recently had a conversation with someone about their approach to Instagram. They claimed to have discovered the secret algorithm for building a following. It was simply, “buy fake followers.” I could understand their logic, make people think you have a following already and they’ll be more likely to follow you. Eventually, you’ll build up enough real followers that it would render the fake accounts unnecessary. To a non-marketer, I can see how this would seem like a quick and easy way to get to Instagram celebrity status. And while I’m sure it’s had his successes, I tend to think a bit differently.

To me, buying fake followers is the same as any “get rich quick” idea. It sounds great up front, but is the long-term payout really going to be worthwhile? Probably not. While buying followers may get your numbers up quickly, it’s not going to get you the engagement you really need. Sure, social media marketing has an incredible value in getting a maximum number of eyeballs on your content. However, where the real value is, is getting the maximum number of your target audience looking at and engaging with your content.

While it may take a little more time, I’m more of the mind that if you’re getting the right content out there your following will come. If you know who your target audience is and you’re creating content that speaks to them, when they engage with you it’s that much more valuable. Fake followers will pad your numbers, but when your content isn’t up to par you lose the second half of the equation — getting the real audience to show up. Fake followers aren’t going to click through to your website and they certainly won’t be buying your products or services.

The other thing to consider is how easy it is to spot a fake account. When I look at who is following someone, I can tell immediately who a real person is vs. a spammer. Yes, that’s part of my profession to be able to spot. However, the average consumer isn’t unaware of spam accounts. It’s a big risk to take to get caught buying your followers. It puts an immediate question mark over how useful your content really is.

Before you go down the road of paying for followers, there are some great ways to organically help boost your numbers to your target audience.

  • Influencers: Start following influencers in your target market, engage with their photos, reach out via direct message or even tag them in posts. Getting an influencer, whom your audience already has a trust in, to engage with you is a great endorsement for your brand.
  • Hashtags: Make sure you’re using hashtags wisely. Instagram shows you how popular terms are as you’re typing them in. Use those numbers to your benefit and make sure you’re using tags that people are searching for
  • Use Insights: If you’re on Instagram as a business, you can now access analytics for your profile. Use this information to see which posts are getting the most impressions and engagement. Keep your eyes out for trends in what is doing well and what isn’t. Use this to steer your content in the right direction for maximum engagement and website clicks.

I’ve personally never paid for followers or likes for a client or employer and still seen success. However, I can’t say that everyone who does is perpetrating some big fraud. As long as there is a solid strategy in place for building out your content and bringing in a real audience vs. using these services as an easy way out.

Let me know what your experience with buying followers has been in the comments. If you’re just starting out and not sure what the best approach to your social media marketing or content should be, contact KMH Marketing with your questions.