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Mythbusters: Buying Social Media Followers Grows Your Brand Online

October 24, 2019
written by Danielle Strouther
Copywriter

If you’re looking for a quick way to boost your social media following, buying followers is not the answer. We investigated why.

TL;DR

  • Buying followers is still legal in the UK and 50 followers can be bought for as little as $3 on Twitter.
  • Fake followers don’t bring any engagement, they’re solely for vanity purposes.
  • Real followers can be gleaned by using automated following systems, but there are drawbacks.
  • Ultimately, though, buying followers isn’t worth the money. Success is earned and not bought.

THE MYTH:

Growing your brand online is a time-consuming and often frustrating process. But it’s an important one. With more followers, you can get your message out to more people, which will eventually lead to more sales and profits.

If you’re not seeing results fast enough, the temptation could be to just buy followers. This gives you a large audience of engaged people ready to interact with your content, instantly. Instead of months or even years of hard work, one small payment will leave you ready to reap the rewards of social media.

THE TRUTH:

Oh, if only it worked this way.

I can see where the temptation to buy followers comes from. Building a following online is slow. It’s an arduous task and involves a lot of hard work and meaningful content.

Buying a following is a dream that promises to cut out that hard work for just a small fee. Oh, how deliciously, deliciously tempting.

But… it’s not that easy.

This is a mythbuster article after all. We can’t have you believe that this is all you need to do.

What is meant by buying followers?

Generally, when it comes to buying social media followers, there are two different ways of spending.

1. Buying the numbers

This one is exactly how it sounds. It’s where you buy a certain number of social media followers for a set price. A quick search shows several websites that offer this, with prices starting as little as $3 for 50 followers.

But be under no impression that these are real people. Most of the accounts on offer from these websites are fake. They’re spam, inactive or robotic accounts that never see a real person.

In fact, nearly 48 million of Twitter’s active users are automated accounts disguised as real people. That’s nearly 15% of the platforms total usage.

The bots are everywhere. And they can be yours for a low, low price.

2. Buy an automated following system

This one is a little riskier but has the potential to bring in real accounts.

It works by following people from your own account and hoping that those people will follow you back. There’s a lot riding on this hope, with no guarantee of actually getting the numbers.

There’s not really a sophisticated targeting system here either. You can give them preferences, such as location, hashtag usage and gender. But that’s it. There’s no judgement on the accounts themselves and whether these people are actually your customers or not.

The chances of:

  • It finding a potential customer
  • Having them follow you back
  • Getting them to engage with your content once followed
  • And having this person stay a loyal, long-term follower

Are slim to none. Sorry.

Your follower count is just a number

Buying followers will increase your follower count. That’s it. Just the number. It doesn’t mean anything.

What you should be focused on is engagement. This is how you win over customers and create a loyal online following of people who will actually buy from your business.

Buying followers does not buy you engagement.

Most of the followers you buy are fake. There’s no one there at the other end, which means there’s no one to see or interact with your post.

So great. You look like you’ve got a high following. But that number is meaningless because you’re just shouting out into an empty void. You may as well howl at the moon instead, it will bring you just as much attention.

Don’t believe us? Many people tried and failed with this before. For example, Hootsuite brought 1,000 followers. They put out a post, seeing what engagement it would bring in from these fake followers.

It delivered nothing. Not even a single like.

You don’t just miss out on engagement here. You also make your posts less likely to be noticed by others.

Without engagement, fewer people will see your posts. That’s because of a lot of social media algorithms, Instagram and Facebook in particular, use engagement to determine the popularity of a post.

The more popular a post is, the more people will it. That’s because they want its users to find content that they’re actually interested in. If you went on a social media platform and only saw things you hated, you wouldn’t use that platform again.

So, popular posts get shown to more people.

If you want to get your posts seen, you need to focus on engagement. Not your follower count. And sadly, buying followers gives you the exact opposite.

Buying followers plays havoc with your metrics

It’s hard to get an accurate insight from your data if you’re paying for followers.

Let’s say that you have 500 organic followers. On average, your posts get 50 likes. That means that 10% of your audience is engaging with your posts – which is a pretty good metric.

But if you pay to up your follower count to 10,000, this metric gets messed up. It drops your engagement rate to just 0.5%. That’s an appalling number and not a true representation of what’s actually going on.

Followers you pay for aren’t real people. They’ll always skew your data and mask what’s really going on.

What’s more, your followers might start seeing through these numbers as well. If they go onto your account and see a high follower count with very little engagement, they might assume that you’ve paid for the followers.

This takes away any FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) effect that a high count would bring. After all, if you had to pay to get people to stay, there’s no incentive for them to do it naturally.

Is buying followers banned?

In the UK, buying followers is still legal. But with a court case outlawing the sale of social media followers and likes after an investigation into the American company Devumi, it may not stay that way for long.

The whole case itself is a fascinating subject. If you’ve got time, we’d recommend The New York Time’s write up of the investigation. It’s a pretty lengthy read, but a thorough overview of how the company operated and created these fake profiles.

Most social media platforms have procedures in place to try and remove ingenuine accounts. But they’re like grey hairs – once you get rid of one 10 more take its place. That’s why when you buy followers you’ll find that your follower count may fluctuate. It’s just replacing the ones that have been deleted. But social media platforms are getting smarter.

As of November 2018, Instagram is pushing systems that will remove “inauthentic” likes, followers and comments from accounts and posts.

Any posts that do this now violate their community guidelines. If you’re a repeat offender, it’s likely that you’ll trigger a reaction from Instagram’s moderators and potentially lose your account. It’s just not worth it.

The bottom line: you can’t buy social media success

Buying social media followers is a cheap way to up your numbers – but there’s just not enough benefits to make it worthwhile.

Buying followers does not give you engagement. It doesn’t capture the attention of your audience. Instead, it messes with your metrics and makes it more difficult for you to see what’s working.

At the end of all that, they might be taken off you for being ingenuine. What a waste.

But this doesn’t just stop at followers.

You can also buy YouTube views or Soundcloud plays. Again, we wouldn’t recommend doing this. It doesn’t mean anything if you have to pay for it. Work for it and earn followers naturally.

Author
Danielle Strouther

Currently writing lots of words about all kinds of unique subjects at Adzooma and searching for a word I like more than discombobulated. I have a masters in Film and Television, so I can tell people I know what’s good on Netflix. Outside of copy and away from a screen, you’re most likely to find me spinning round on a pole.
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