You have probably all seen these types of ads: “As low as $4 for 500 Followers | 100% Real Instagram Followers” or “Buy Instagram Followers | Genuine Followers Fast.” If you’re a business struggling to gain online traction, or someone wanting to become an influencer quickly, these ads can look so tempting. But don’t give in. There are sound reasons why you should not buy Instagram followers.
Similarly, don’t be tempted by the ads offering to sell your Instagram likes. They likewise will give you little long-term benefit, and may well harm your account’s standing.
When it comes down to it, there are three main reasons you would choose to operate an Instagram account:
- You want to connect with friends and/or family, show them what you’re doing and see what’s happening in their lives – if this is you, there is no reason to buy followers just so you have a bigger network. You don’t know them, so I would have no purpose for engaging with them. They definitely will have no interest in the posts you share.
- You are a brand/business wanting to market something – you are certainly not going to sell anything to a fake follower
- You are an influencer – you can’t influence a fake follower – all it does is make you also look fake.
It makes no logical sense for anybody to buy fake followers. Anybody can spot fake followers. What can you possibly achieve from the practice?
There are some clear reasons why buying fake followers and/or likes can be harmful to your Instagram account.
Fake Instagram Followers Don’t Engage With Your Account
Don’t for a second believe that you will gain any genuine engagement from your purchased Instagram followers. Sometimes they aren’t real people at all, merely fake bot accounts.
The best engagement you can hope for from these accounts is an automated “nice post” comment.
This is particularly important for anybody who fancies themselves as an influencer. Any brand that chooses to work with influencers will check out the validity of an “influencer” before they decide to work with them.
Clearly, if you want to be considered an influencer, then you have to influence your followers’ behavior. If your followers don’t engage with you, then you aren’t influencing them in any way.
Similarly, if you operate a brand’s account, you will have little use for followers who never engage with your posts. At the very least, you want your followers to look at your posts, even if they don’t like or share them. Bought followers will never see anything you post.
Some of the typical signs of a fake follower include blank profiles lacking a profile picture, few if any images shared, and a general lack of intelligent interaction. Many of these false accounts will follow substantially more people than they have followers, too.
Of course, it is not always as simple as that. The people who run fake accounts often rely on the law of reciprocity. Most people will automatically follow somebody back who follows them. The fake accounts typically follow thousands of accounts, get almost as many follow back, and then a few days later unfollow people (who don’t notice the fact they have been unfollowed). This keeps their ratios more acceptable so they can go through the process again with another unsuspecting set of Instagrammers.
You Have Mismatched Engagement Compared to Genuine Accounts
It is not hard to spot accounts that have less engagement than typical accounts.
Genuine Instagram accounts tend to follow relatively similar engagement patterns. Markerly analyzed the accounts of 2 million influencers and discovered that Instagram influencers with:
- < 1,000 followers average about 8% engagement
- 1,000 – 10,000 followers average 4% engagement
- 10,000 – 100,000 followers average 2.4% engagement
- 100,000 – 1 million followers average 1.8% engagement
- > 1 million followers average 1.7% engagement
While these numbers are just averages, you should look suspiciously at any accounts that have an engagement level that varies from these averages by a considerable margin.
This includes cases where engagement appears too high. Some Instagrammers and bloggers have joined circles where they comment on and share each other’s material. While these are not quite as bad as false accounts created by bots, they are still of little value to a brand wanting to build relationships with genuine influencers.
Similarly, if you buy likes, it can push your engagement statistics outside an acceptable range, and make your account look questionable.
Another way you can spot false engagement is by comparing the ratio of likes to comments on the photos somebody shares. While there are no “tight” ratios here if you see a lot of likes but few comments on a series of posts, then it is likely that the Instagrammer has bought likes.
You Might End up with Inappropriate Bot Comments on Posts
Sometimes you will get comments from fake followers – but they are in a completely different language to your own. You will have no idea as to what they say (unless you use something like Google Translate). You might find that these comments are really ads for sex toys or extremist political groups.
One common tactic with bot accounts is to make generic comments on posts. Sometimes you might not be able to know whether a comment is genuine. An occasional problem you may spot is when these generic comments are totally inappropriate for a particular post. For instance, you might make a post announcing the death of a family member or pet. A fake follower’s “nice post” or “good one” comment doesn’t exactly look good to the other people perusing your account.
Bought Followers Bring Spam with Them
While many of your purchased followers are entirely fake, others are fronts for spam. By buying these fake followers, you are opening up your account to buckets of spam posts. This may not just be on your Instagram account either. If you provided your email address when you bought the accounts (or even have it written on your Instagram profile), you are providing another opportunity for these people to spread their spam.
These spammers now have access to your followers to deliver your spam too. Some of your followers will follow them (merely because they see you have) and when they discover the quality fo these accounts, your genuine followers may unfollow you.
Instagram Recognizes and Purges Fake Followers
Instagram wants its members to have an enjoyable user experience. Therefore it puts quite some effort into finding and eradicating false accounts. Instagram makes regular purges, searching for fake accounts. They have considerable experience of finding fake accounts and know all the signs to look out for.
You may not think that you have paid much for your followers, but it will still be too much if these followers disappear soon after you buy them.
Buying Fake Followers is Against Instagram’s Terms of Service
Instagram actively discourages people from buying followers. Not only will they purge the fake followers, but they also reserve the right to suspend accounts that become involved in this practice. It definitely will be poor for the credibility of your account if you are suspended for engaging in dodgy practices.
Instagram might warn you the first time they suspect you of dishonest practices, but they won’t a second time.
Having Fake Followers Destroys Your Credibility as an Influencer
If you have to resort to buying followers, then it is doubtful that you are a genuine influencer. This is certainly how any brands who could potentially hire you will look at things.
Genuine influencers build their following organically. Of course, this will take time. But there is a real danger that you will lose all credibility if you try and take shortcuts.
As I referred to above, there are clear engagement paths for genuine accounts. If your level of engagement is either above or below these paths, people will doubt your worth as an influencer.
Indeed this can also cause problems for brands running Instagram accounts. If people notice that your account looks unusual in any way they will begin to query your worth as a business. They will ponder whether you are also dishonest in other areas of your business practices.
You need to work on building an organic following. Share quality posts. Work to get (genuine) shout-outs from people on Instagram, and some of their followers will come and take a look at what you have to offer.
You could even consider buying some Instagram ads, which will increase your reach and hopefully pull in genuine followers. If you have a budget to “buy” followers, it is better to spend that money on advertising and extend the reach of your posts to people who will actually have an interest in what you share.
You Won’t Earn Money Using Fake Followers
Ultimately you need to ask yourself why you would want to buy followers. These people, whether they are real or totally fake accounts, will not spend any money on your products. They will not refer people to you.
If you hope to be an influencer, brands will choose not to work with you if you buy followers (as they are so easy to spot). Brands do not select their influencers based on their number of followers alone. There are now many tools available to help brands. The platforms and the agencies are selective about who they take on their books. They don’t want to be stung by working with unworthy accounts.
If you are a brand, there is little point boosting your company account numbers falsely. None of these people will come to your site and buy your product.
With Instagram continually purging the fake accounts you buy you will rapidly see the money you outlay disappear.