It’s long been known that you can easily buy followers on social media from various places. Most often, you’re buying bots and fake accounts, so for most of this article that’s the kind of “buying” I’m referring to.
This is a controversial topic for some, so I want to look at both the pros and cons of buying social media followers for your business.
Towards the end of this article, I’ll also talk about some ethical ways to buy followers if you are interested in doing so.
1. Social Proof
As far as I can tell, there’s really only one business benefit to buying followers, and that is social proof (i.e. you look more credible with more followers).
Having tens of thousands of subscribers could make you look like a well-established and beloved company. People might consciously or unconsciously think you’re more credible, making them more likely to follow you and/or buy from you.
On the surface, that seems like a fairly good reason to buy followers. You get new customers trusting you more quickly and you could even build your real following faster.
2. Ego Boost
The main non-business benefit I can see in buying followers is the ego-stoking it provides. We feel good when we are perceived as authorities in our industry. We feel successful, we look successful, and that feels good all around.
Since we are comparing both pros and cons to buying social media followers, what possible downsides could there be?
1. Trust Factors
Buying followers is a shortcut to perceived popularity. It’s what happens when you have not been doing the necessary work required to build a brand organically.
If people find out you have been buying followers, they would naturally wonder where else you’re cutting corners and whether you can be trusted.
Even if they suspect you bought followers, their trust in your has been diminished.
Identifying whether someone has purchased followers is fairly easy. You can look who follows any account (on Instagram and Twitter, at least) and after some time you’ll see a trend as to whether they are real or obviously fake. You may need to do some scrolling, as often followers are bought early in the account’s history and are buried deeper in the list of followers. There are other ways to do this for different platforms as well.
Buying followers is a form of deception. Good marketing is never deceptive. Good marketing requires having a quality product or service to begin with. When your product or service is great to begin with, marketing becomes about transferring enthusiasm about your offer to your potential customers. No hype or sales-y-ness required.
If people think you’re being deceptive, are they more or less likely to buy from you?
3. Low Engagement
When you buy followers, you also get low engagement. If you have a million followers but only 1,000 likes on your post, the platform will naturally skew towards not showing content as frequently to your true followers.
Platforms are algorithmically built to show good content as the priority to keep people engaged. They determine what is good content by the amount engagement (clicks, likes, shares etc.) relative to your followers and number of times your posts are viewed.
For example, posts that get a lot of likes quickly after publishing will continue showing up at a higher rate for a longer period of time. Posts that get ignored by most followers are less likely to be displayed in general.
4. No Direct Business Benefit
Fake followers are not customers. They’re usually not even real people. Therefore, don’t expect them to buy anything!
Ethically Buying Social Media Followers
In this article, I’ve been focused on whether you should buy fake followers on social media. I’ve been focused on the kind that produces the most number of followers fastest, which is to buy bots and fake accounts.
There are at least three other ways to “buy” real followers more ethically (directly or indirectly).
You can advertise on most social media platforms with a message that compels people to follow you. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc. all have ad platforms that enable you to either promote a link or promote your own profile to increase followers.
If your core message is good, this is a sound and ethical way to grow your following. You’re essentially exposing people to your value proposition in the hopes it catches some attention and captures new followers.
I actually followed someone this way on Twitter the other day. They were advertising a link to some resource to help consultants. I clicked his profile instead, saw a relevant value proposition (he helps consultants with their business) and his latest posts were interesting to me. So I followed him, which is an indirect benefit to his ad spend.
Advertising to relevant audiences with a relevant message is an ethical way to build your following.
This area ventures a bit more into the grey but I don’t see it as an unethical way to grow your following.
There are tools out there that allow you to follow people based on who they follow (i.e. follow all followers of x influencer), hashtags they use, and other factors. These same tools often unfollow them if you don’t get a follow-back, just so you don’t accrue a big disparity between the number of people you follow vs. the number who follow you.
The idea is that the tool follows real people, they see a notification, read your profile, and follow back if your content and profile description is relevant.
You can also do this manually if you have the time. It’s got a low success rate but it works when you target people correctly.
There is potential that if you follow/unfollow too many people too quickly, you can get banned from posting or following people for a period of time. There are settings you can use to slow this down.
Do this too many times and your account could get blocked, so be careful.
3. Strategic Interactions
Much like the idea above, you can use paid tools that engage with people based on who they follow, words in their posts, or hashtags they use. Engagement means liking, sharing, commenting, etc. The goal is to get people to notice you, read your profile, and then follow you.
This too will have a low success rate if you’re using a tool. It’s the shotgun approach. It works better when you do it manually to highly specific people and add value to them over time.
This method is also most often perceived as spam, so be careful not to overdo it if you decide on this methodology. Spam is not marketing, so I don’t support this method for companies looking to do things right.
In business, there’s one essential asset that must be developed, fostered, and protected at all times, and that is trust.
When you buy social media followers, your primary risk is people either knowing or guessing that your followers are fake.
If they find out your followers were purchased, their trust in your will be reduced to whatever degree they expect you to be honest. Even if they suspect you have bought your followers, the trust has been affected
I’m not saying you should or should not buy followers. If you’re going to do it, I recommend advertising since it’s the above-board way to do things and is the least resemblance to spam.
However, if your sole goal is immediate financial growth and you think you can get a greater return on your marketing efforts by buying followers, than by all means do it. But know the risks.
Good marketing aims to be ethical and truthful at all times, so for me, I’d rather not blur the lines into the grey area if I can avoid it, either for myself or my clients.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments!