There’s no denying the power of social media marketing and the benefits it can offer businesses.
However, there’s one major obstacle that many businesses face when trying to leverage social media: building an audience.
No matter if it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or another site, earning followers isn’t easy. When trying to take advantage of social media marketing, businesses quickly realize that building an audience is a constant uphill battle.
The difficulty of getting followers leads many to consider the seemingly harmless option of buying followers.
Buy some followers, get a decent-sized audience on social media and you’ll look far more reputable, right?
Not so fast!
A bought audience is not the same as the one you earn. Buying followers, subscribers, or connections will only hurt your business.
How to Buy Fake Followers
There are a few ways that people buy an audience on social media. Before digging into the harm this can do, let’ take a look at how people buy followers:
Social media sites are trying to crack down on fake follower vendors, but they still exist. The basic concept is that you pay the vendor and they deliver the followers. Where are they getting the followers from? How do they get them to follow you? Most vendors aren’t clear about this information if they even follow through.
Social Media Bots
Bots are essentially fake accounts. They are not real people, but they may steal images and content from real people. Some companies create their own bots to use as followers, others will purchase bot automation software.
Inactive accounts are a bit different from bots in that they are real accounts. However, the inactive accounts are created only for these paid following endeavors. Some inactive followers may even engage at first, but ultimately they’ll become inactive.
Automated Follow/ Unfollow
Following other accounts is a well-known strategy for increasing your own follower counts. You can also pay to automate the follow/unfollow process. Of course, there’s no guarantee that these accounts you follow will follow you back or engage with your content.
Followers Are Not All That Matters
The main reason companies are willing to pay for followers or automated bots aimed at getting followers is because they believe follower count has value. Worse yet, many company leaders do not understand social media and measure their team’s progress based on how many followers they are getting.
While it’s certainly important to build an audience, the number of followers is not the only important metric. Having a good follower count looks impressive, but it’s not really the most important metric for social media marketing success.
Rather than focus on the number of followers, connections, subscribers, etc, you should pay attention to:
- Engagement rates
- Website traffic from social media
- How many lists, collections, etc you have been saved to
- Leads and sales social media drives
How Buying Followers Harms Your Business
Buying a social media audience is not just useless, it is also harmful. That’s right, buying followers will actually hurt your social media strategy and your brand image. Here are the biggest dangers of buying followers:
Engagement is a key metric to monitor and actively work to improve. Buying followers is one of the best ways to hinder engagement.
When you buy followers, you are getting bots and inactive accounts. You are not getting real people that care about your brands or products. All you are paying for is a number.
Once you get the “followers” you can’t expect much from them. You may initially get some early engagement (typically a generic comment or a like), but it won’t stick. Any attention the fake followers give is not genuine, and it will quickly taper off.
In the end, you could end up with even less engagement than you began with. You may get the same people who engaged before to keep doing so. But if you have more “followers” the same number of engagements results in a lower engagement rate. Worse yet, the lower engagement rate will hurt your chances in the social media algorithm. This means you lose out on more organic engagement that you could have been getting.
To improve your social media strategy, you must assess performance metrics. Performance metrics can help you find out what your audience engages with, and which of your content pieces perform the best.
Buying an audience distorts your performance metrics. It will be very difficult to figure out which posts are doing well and how your real audience is responding.
The lack of clear metrics makes it even harder to convert followers to real customers, which was the whole point of social media marketing.
Hurts Brand Credibility
Brands should use social media to establish trust and build relationships with prospects. You don’t want to do anything that will harm your reputation, and buying fake followers can do just that.
Having fake followers hurts your chances of getting real followers. Imagine that a potential customer finds your page. They see 50,000 followers, but posts with 100 likes and 3 comments. That type of discrepancy will raise an immediate red flag. People will wonder why you are purchasing followers and likely question the quality of your brand.
Lose Followers Later
Instagram and other social media platforms are cracking down on fake accounts. Buying followers goes against the community guidelines on social media platforms. If a social media channel catches inactive or bot accounts, they will remove the account. In many cases, they will also remove any engagements the account did make.
Social media platforms are looking to preserve genuine interactions on the site. In the end, buying followers may just lead to you losing them later. You’ll have wasted money, and your real audience will start to wonder why you are suddenly dropping followers.
Most bought followers are fake, but that’s not all. These fake accounts may also bring spam with them. If you buy followers from a vendor, you must submit an email address. Submitting any contact information likely leads to spam. Furthermore, the spammers can access your followers and bother them as well.
Focus on Engagement
How your followers interact with your brand is far more important than how many there are.
Rather than pay for followers, focus on growing your social media presence the right way. Your primary objective should be to increase engagement with the followers you have while also attracting new relevant followers.
Authentic engagement and growth are far more beneficial in the long run than hundreds of fake followers. Analyze the audience you have and follow actionable tips to boost engagement like:
- Create valuable content
- Be consistent with social media posting
- Interact and engage with your followers and prospects
- Use all features of the app (stories, hashtags, etc)
Much like anything worth having, there’s no shortcut to social media marketing. Buying followers is a quick fix that can leave your account worse off than when you started. Rather than buying followers, focus on increasing engagement to boost conversions and attract relevant organic followers.