Is it a good idea to buy fake likes and social media followers for your business? We explore the 10 key things you need to know about the practice of buying fake followers.

There is still a huge amount of emphasis and social proof on the number of social media followers you have. Key decisions can be swung based on this figure – from investors deciding on whether to support a startup, to brands choosing which influencers to work with. Having a large following can make your business look more established, or an individual account look for influential.

But changes to social media newsfeed algorithms mean those with the high amounts of followers no longer reach all of their customers. It’s now near impossible to reach all of your followers with your posts organically  – yet your follower count continues to be used as the main metric of success for many.

We’re on a mission to change the focus to more meaningful insights – like profile visits, clicks and genuine engagement. (Anyway, that’s a blog post for another day!)

The worrying part is — it’s still so easy to buy fake followers and to use bots to create fake engagement on your social media profiles.

Is it worth it? What are the risks? Are the social media platforms doing anything to stop this? We get asked about this all of the time, so let’s explore the 10 things you need to know about fake followers.

How much do fake followers cost?

A quick Google search of “Buy Instagram followers” results in companies promoting instant real followers for extremely low prices. Currently, you can buy 1,000 UK based Instagram followers for as little as £9.99 (Approx $13 USD) that claim to be “100% genuine”.

Is buying fake followers illegal?

Buying Instagram followers became so popular a couple of years ago, that a rumour spread the practice had become illegal. Although not illegal, it does violate the terms and conditions of each social media platform, so you can risk having your profile deleted if suspicious behaviour has occurred.

Fake followers don’t care about your business

Fake followers are usually robot or inactive accounts, so there are not genuinely interested in your business. They are also known as ghost followers or zombie followers. They are not likely to look at your social media posts, let alone buy from you. Sure, you might get a few thousand followers on your Instagram page, but if no one is actually liking or commenting on your content then it can be quite obvious to customers and competitors that you’ve faked it. Not good for your rep!

If you buy Instagram followers and your real customers find out, can you expect them to trust you?

Fake followers can disappear tomorrow

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are well aware of the issue of fake followers. In 2015, Instagram held a purge and many celebrities and bloggers lost thousands of followers overnight, as fake and inactive accounts were deleted.

Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and brands like American Apparel have all fallen victim to this – just to name a few. Embarrassing!

What are bots or automation?

Bots refer to the act of allowing an automated tool to like and comment on your behalf. This is also sometimes known as “Instagram automation”.

Tools can be used to leave fake comments on people’s Instagram accounts and to like other user’s images.  If you’ve seen emojis being posted on your ‘grams or recognise the comments like “nice one” or “great feed” then it’s likely you are being targeted by a bot.

Using these bots is rumoured to have a negative effect on your account, as the social media platforms will be able to see you are doing this and penalise you. However, recently Instagram denied this was the case (see Shadowbanning was always bullsh*t).

We think genuine engagement is far better to generate because….(see the next point)

Bots don’t get context!

Since Instagram bots can’t read social cues or understand context, they frequently post inappropriate comments. This can be a serious issue for your brand. Imagine if your Instagram account posted “Great job” on a post about a cat dying – eek!

We keep getting a post from a bot which says “not bad for a monday” on our Instagram – even on other days of the week. Not cool.

Fake followers and bots are a huge issue

According to some estimates, as many as 15% of Twitter’s ‘users’ may be fake while up to 60m Facebook accounts could be automated, or bots. Back in 2015, 24 million Instagram accounts were estimated to be fake.

We can expect some more purges in the years ahead and better tools to report and guard against spam. In fact, Twitter has just announced it will require confirmation of an email address or phone number to sign up for an account. Also, suspicious accounts will be flagged with a warning sign – a great idea.

How do you clean up a social media profile that bought followers?

The best thing to do if you know a profile has fake followers is to report them to the social platforms themselves. Report each account as spam, which will also block them. This means their account will be reviewed, and quite possibly deleted. This will help to crack down on fake accounts so will help everyone in the long run. There are a few (paid for) apps that do this in bulk for you which you can find here, “How to get rid of fake followers“.

Your stats will be completely skewed

Instagram insights are getting better and better. Facebook and Twitter offer some great free analytics tools too. Why risk messing up all of the numbers here by buying fake followers? You might find that suddenly the age, location and language used by your fake followers risks you finding out exactly who your social media community is.

Influencer marketing is badly affected

With Instagram influencers earning huge amounts of money now, the ethical implications of buying followers are brought to the forefront. This was a hot topic at Cannes Lions 2018 – with influencer marketing fraud being cited as a huge issue for top brands.

As reported in The Drum, the festival was used to convene a group of industry representatives, including the tech platforms, to push forward the agenda of how to better detect and deal with bot accounts and influencer fraud.

Remember always, don’t take shortcuts – think about quality over quantity.

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