Here’s What Happened When We Built A Brand By Buying Instagram Followers
“To buy followers or to not buy followers,” is a question that every brand, company, and individual who actively use social media must answer many, many times. The world has shifted in it’s focus which often times boils down the value people have to how many likes they have on their profile or how much engagement they got on a single post. This leads people to…cheat authenticy and buy for perception.
So, being the creative provocateurs that we are, we decided to test this debate and see how easy it would be to create a seemingly “dope,” fake, millennial brand, through buying perception on social media.
Our plan was to create uber “cool” content in the most millennial of ways around a new age energy drink that was suppose to be like all the rest (healthy, cool, taste good, fresh ingredients, etc.).
These kind of drinks are popping up more and more. On a different spectrum but within the same accord, have you seen Life Wtr — a brand that is literally just water with “cool” packaging marketed to Gen Z’s & Millennials and priced entirely too high.
Can you say joke?? But we decided to do something a bit similar. We looked, looked and looked for an existing design and bottle design we could easily photoshop over and settled on Bai to be the lucky candidate. They were fairly cool, sleek and clean (plus when thinking of top drinks, bai isn’t one that quickly comes to mind unless you are a fan or pay close attention to bottle design).
The next challenge was trying to come up with a name. The key was to come up with something that was both catchy as well as culturally relevant. It took us a while to decide on anything that made sense, when one night, over laughter and fun conversations it hit us.
If we were going to create a fake energy drink that was going to help millennials stay awake and kill the struggles of their lives it needed to speak on quite a few levels.
Enter…Woke…actually WOQE, which took us several iterations to get just right. Eventually, after much polling, we settled on the last option as our new logo of choice.
Ok, everything was in place with the social channels set up (focusing on instagram and facebook), but here is where things start to get a bit interesting. In the beginning, we threw out a few social posts on Instagram just to get some content flowing in the pipeline before releasing all WOQE content. Engagement coming out of the gate wasn’t bad at all considering that, mainly friends were following the account.
Again, for basically no following, these were really good results. Below was the last photo we posted before we made, “the decision.”
Now it was after this post that we decided to do & test something drastic and highly against what we believe in, buying followers on Instagram. The idea was to see how much increased engagement, due to perception we could gain by having a “larger following.”
After a few searches we settled on this website, called QuickGrow as they seemed the more legit out of the list we had made. We made our purchase and shut off social for the night.
Upon waking up in the morning we had around 2k followers and, needless to say, we were pretty pumped, but over the next few days we would notice that while our numbers increase other things did not.
That night, although we gained 2k+ followers that didn’t translate in engagement as this was the result of our very next post:
It’s amazing that with literally no following (maybe had around 15–18 real followers — although they were people we knew) we got 5–7x more likes and engagement than when we had 1800+ bought followers.
Once we noticed this, we started digging to see what else we could find and the next eye-opening fact we found was, posts didn’t show up in hashtags like it did before “the decision.”
It was strange because it would show up in some hashtags and not in others but even when it showed up in the tags, people weren’t liking it. Over the course of the campaign a majority of the likes that each post gained (which never reached double digits) were from us and no one new.
So we can only assume that due to the phantom, “Instagram Algorithm” we were penalized deeply for trying to cheat the system. On a different note, this recent article by Digiday also explains why engagement across the board is continuing to go down:
Last week, Instagram added two features that will alter the content in users' feeds: The ability to follow hashtags…digiday.com
Now early on we realized that they whole campaign would yield lack luster numbers so we turned to paid ads next. We boosted a few posts (and on purpose boosted one post in particular that had a typo on the can) to see if that would help engagement and the results were pretty funny, in that no one actually cared about the brand or drink itself but pointed out grammatical errors within the post. Or, they harped on the fact that the can was a blatant rip off of bai.
Furthering the notion that, as a brand consumers tend to voice their opinions only when they are upset or there is a problem, which sheds light on the negative side exclusively.
On the flip side we did get an interesting message from an athlete on a potential partnership. Got to say it made us laugh a bit as this was precisely what we were looking to see happen at some point during the campaign.
To go back to the ads, they, themselves, did have some pretty good results, which we were pretty happy about on the backend. The summary of the campaign itself overall went as follows:
- The quick web page we set up got 24 views (was only linked or found from this Instagram account)
- We posted 22 times over 2 weeks (14 days)
Paid Ad Results:
- Total Spend: $32.50
- Total Impressions: 3,000
- Relevance score of 9!!! (10 being the highest and means that people who saw that ad were able to instantly recall the message and product)
Concept Kitchen was born to test concepts and work out ideas for ourselves within this busy digital age and the debate about buying followers to increase perception is something that we deal with in our industry everyday.
Growing your digital presence online organically (or even with legit paid ads through the various social channels) is a longterm, uphill, battle but, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Building a real following takes time and effort but over time that is rewarded with real and actual engagement. Cheating the process usually doesn’t amount to the kind of ROI you would have had if you walked the straight and narrow path of authenticity.