Fake Followers: 10 Things You Need to Know

Apr 12, 2021

The practice of buying fake social media fans and followers for your business has existed for over a decade. It offers a quick boost to your audience size, but is it sustainable? In this blog we explore 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 your business has. Key decisions can be swung based on this figure. From investors deciding on whether to support a start up, to brands choosing which influencers to work with. Having a large following can make your business look more established, or an individual account look influential.

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Changes to social media newsfeed algorithms has meant that it’s now nearly impossible to reach all your followers with your posts organically. Yet, your follower count continues to be used as the main metric of success for many.

Worryingly, 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 the time. So, let’s explore the 10 things you need to know about fake followers.

1. 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 Instagram followers for as little as £9.99 (Approx $13 USD). They claim to be “100% genuine”.

2. Is buying fake followers illegal?

Buying Instagram followers became so popular at one point, that rumours begun to spread that the practice had become illegal. Although it’s not illegal, it does violate the terms and conditions of every social media platform. Buying followers is considered “suspicious behaviour” which means you risk having your profile deleted.

3. Fake followers don’t care about your business

Fake followers are usually robots or inactive accounts. They 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 account, but if no one is liking or commenting on your content then it can be obvious to customers and competitors that you’ve faked it. This isn’t good for your business reputation!

4. Fake followers are a huge issue for platforms

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are aware of the issue of fake followers. The platforms regularly perform purges. Often celebrities and bloggers get caught out as they lose thousands of followers overnight as fake and inactive accounts are deleted. Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and brands like American Apparel have all fallen victim to this – just to name a few. Embarrassing!

From October to December 2020, Facebook deleted 1.3 billion fake accounts from its user base. We can expect many more purges in the months ahead and better tools to report and guard against spam. Many social media tools including Twitter require confirmation of an email address or phone number to sign up for an account. Also, suspicious accounts are flagged with a warning sign.

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5. Fake Followers lead to spam

Attracting fake followers to your profile can make you a platform for spam – especially on Instagram. Buying fake followers and incorporating them into your community means they can now target your genuine customers.

“If your brand becomes known for spamming followers with irrelevant nonsense, they are going to stop following you.” – AJ Agrawal, Huffington Post.

Fake followers seem like a sure way to attract lots of spam, for both yourself and your real followers.

6. How can you spot fake followers?

Spam users and fake followers can usually be identified by their username and profile. If they have a username with a scramble of numbers and letters, a default profile picture, and no posts on their profile – then these are tell-tale signs!

This guide below from TRIBE offers a few good tips including low followers and high following, low quality content and a lack of engagement.

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7. 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. Report each account as spam, which will also block them. This means their account will be reviewed, and quite possibly deleted.

On Instagram, you can remove followers by clicking on your follower count and removing users individually. This is a manual process that takes time, but cleansing your account is important for your overall quality.

Doing this will also help to crack down on fake accounts on the platforms, so this will help everyone in the long run.

8. 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 photo” 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. The social media platforms will be able to see you are doing this and penalise you by not showing your posts in the Explore feed or hashtag results pages.

Genuine engagement is far better to generate because bots don’t understand 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!

9. Your insights will be completely skewed

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer great free analytics tools too. Why risk messing up your data by buying fake followers? You might find that suddenly the age, gender, location and language information is no longer relevant and its harder to create benchmarks and KPIs for your performance.

10. Influencer marketing has been badly affected

With Instagram influencers earning huge amounts of money now, the ethical implications of buying followers are brought to the forefront. As influencer marketing continues to be used as a major strategy for brand awareness, selecting the right influencers to work with has become more important.

Unfortunately, there are fraudulent influencers who simply buy fake followers to create more bargaining power with brands. When selecting influencers, you should be looking for individuals who genuinely influence, have their followers’ respect and can encourage them to take action. We recommend that you don’t concentrate on followers. Instead, look at engagement rates and ask influencers to share their insights with you privately.

Hopefully, this blog offers you some more insight on how to approach fake followers. Remember, never take shortcuts. Always think about quality over quantity.

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