I’m going to start this post out by saying that while I have never personally paid for followers, I can empathize for why people do it. In an ever-evolving industry where the sheer number of followers can make or break a sponsorship deal, I can see the appeal (and temptation) of buying followers. My goal of today’s post is to shed some light on the topic of buying Instagram followers and generate a discussion on whether or not it’s really worth doing. While I’m personally very strongly opinionated about the side that I sit on (don’t do it!) I’m curious to know how others feel about this topic.
Let’s dig into the good, the bad, and the really ugly of buying Instagram followers, shall we?
The good: Spoilers, there’s not much…
I’m probably stating the obvious here, but the only good I can see in buying Instagram followers is the bump in sheer numbers for a following. And, of course, the potential sponsorship deal(s) that come with a large following. While having a huge following count is impressive, more than just the number of followers are now being considered for sponsorship deals.
Brands who do their homework will know to look for other criteria like engagement, trajectory of growth, and dig into the percentage of real followers. Let’s explore how to dig into these other criteria, what they look like after buying Instagram followers, and the tools used to do this research.
The bad: It’s pretty obvious to spot if you’ve purchased followers
I want to introduce you to a tool called Socialblade. This site allows anyone (no account necessary) to dig into the analytics of any user on any social media platform (IG, YouTube, Twitter, etc). I’m specifically focusing on Instagram because that’s my personal favourite social media platform and the one that I have the most experience researching.
The examples that I’m going to show you in this post have been stripped of any identifying username info… know that this information is easily accessible to anyone (aka potential brand sponsors, other bloggers, your followers, etc)!
Case #1: How to tell if someone has purchased Instagram followers
In this specific example, it’s really obvious that followers were purchased. This particular user only had 700 followers on March 22, and by April 11 hovered just under 10,500 followers! That’s an increase of almost 10,000 followers in ~3 weeks! Not to mention, the numbers of followers “delivered” is extremely unnatural where it fluctuates from 600 to almost 1,500 per day. A true following of real users would be amassed in a steady growth, where the daily average count would be similarly reflected in the daily reported counts of new followers. In this specific case, we see that at the bottom of the report that the daily average value is +433, even though this particular user was barely scraping a +30 daily average prior to March 27. The numbers tell everything! No one’s being bamboozled into thinking this is natural growth here!
Case #2: What happens when you decide to stop buying Instagram followers?
This is another tell tale sign of whether or not someone is buying Instagram followers: the period of time right after all of the purchased followers has been delivered. This is what I call “the bleeding period” because it’s when they start to bleed followers.
Using the same user from Case #1, we can see that all of their purchased followers were delivered by April 11, and they began to bleed followers on April 12:
The “bleeding” is caused by a combination of the fact that no new followers are being delivered and the fact that Instagram discovers spam accounts. The spam accounts make up the majority – if not all – of the purchased followers. Since fake spam accounts are being banned and the user who purchased followers does not have the steady, natural momentum of gaining followers, the net following is negative. This is such a fascinating period of time to witness as a third party observer…
If you want to see what this use case looks like for a blogger with a much larger following, here you go!
From this use case, we learn that the only way to sustain the net positive growth after buying Instagram followers is to continue to buy followers. It’s a really ugly (and potentially expensive) cycle to fall into.
We’re now going to go into “The Really Ugly” part of buying Instagram followers.
The Really Ugly: What do these fake spam accounts look like?
If you’re thinking, “Ok, so what if I bought a few hundred fake followers? What’s the big deal?” Fake spam accounts are… interesting. Their content can range from a bunch of nonsense stock photos (see below), to really inappropriate NSFW photos (you’re welcome for keeping this SFW), the same selfie posted 10+ times.
Here are a couple of examples of fake spam accounts. You can tell immediately that these are not accounts of “real people” for a few reasons:
1. The number of posts is usually very low
2. The content itself is pretty awful — see the repetition in photos?
3. The “following” to “posts” ratio is high, which means these accounts are the ones used to follow accounts that purchase followers
This is the quality of “followers” that get delivered when purchasing Instagram followers. Sometimes, the photos in the fake spam accounts feeds contain nudity or other very NSFW content. One question that always comes to mind is: Is this what you really want brands or other real followers to see when they look through your following?
No matter how many followers that are delivered, these fake spam accounts are not required to engage with you or your content (unless you pay for another service to “like” your photos on top of already paying for buying followers). You don’t get more likes, no real comments… nada! Sure, you can go from 0 to 10,000 followers in a few days, but your engagement will be less than sub-par without any real followers.
Brands are getting smarter and learning the true value of the loyalty and engagement of a following. This information was so easy to pull, so if a blogger like me was easily able to find it, just think about how easy it is for a brand to “research” and do their homework on bloggers they’re considering for collaboration. All of this info begs the question: Is it really worth it to buy Instagram followers?