Why Buying Followers on Social Media is Bad for Businesses

Have you ever looked at someone’s social media pages and wondered how they’ve seemingly got thousands of followers but zero engagement? There could be a number of reasons for this, but if their comments section is more tumbleweed than talk, it could mean that they’ve bought their followers.

When you’re just starting out, it may seem like high followers numbers are the Holy Grail of social media marketing and that those figures reflect well on your business, but a small, engaged following is actually of far more value.

Last week, a story was featured across various news sites about a band called Threatin, who managed to book a series of gigs, only to play to empty venues. With just a little digging it was discovered that, not only was the band faking emails from a manager and promoter who didn’t exist, but that their 38,000-strong Facebook following largely consisted of bots and fake accounts.

The ‘fake follower’ phenomenon is one which seems to be pervasive across the whole scope of social media – just a little digging on Google roots out a slew of celebrities, influencers and entrepreneurs whose following has gone from a few thousand to several million in an unrealistically short space of time.

Of course, this is occasionally authentic – Love Island contest and actor’s daughter Dani Dyer saw her Instagram following increase to 1.2 million after winning the 2018 series of the dating show, and it’s estimated that she’ll become an ‘Instagram millionaire’ if she capitalises on this through sponsored posts.

But more often than not, it’s totally fake.

Here at Blue Cactus Digital, we perform Instagram audits for our clients and one of the most important metrics that we look at is real followers versus fake ones. Accounts with a high amount of fake followers (and these aren’t always bought, sometimes they’re just bots which have found your account by scraping keywords and hashtags from your posts) will suffer with a lack of engagement, and will also be missing out on any type of organic growth.

Businesses tend to succeed on social media when they have authentic followers who love their posts, spend time commenting and sharing their content and help to create a buzz. Fake followers simply add to your follower count and do very little else.

From a purely data-driven point of view, a lack of engagement will mean that your posts are seen by fewer people. Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms both favour posts with more comments, and if your posts are getting none, they’ll be seen by even fewer people.

If all of that isn’t enough to convince you to keep your following authentic, look at it from a PR perspective – how’s it going to look for your brand if you’re discovered faking your following? A company’s integrity is one of its most important assets and customers don’t spend money with people who they feel have been misleading them. Is it worth risking your clientele for an impressive Insta following?

We don’t think so.

If you’d like us to take a look at your Instagram account and tell you where you could make improvements, take a look at out Instagram audit packages that will provide you with a list of hashtags to use to attract more of those genuine ideal customers.