If you talked with any digital expert, they agree with the following sentiment: DON’T ever buy followers across social media to inflate your influence— especially on Instagram.
Earlier this year, I warned folks in hunting and fishing circles to not to engagein this unprofessional behavior. I also have a general post on social media best practices for growing your influence ORGANICALLY here too. Here’s a recap:
Don’t Buy Your Followers. Period.
> Buying followers is not acceptable anytime. If a prospective client employs this, I will not work with them. Period. I’ve previously discussed this here and here. In fact, social media platforms are actively penalizing accounts that engage in this fishy behavior.
> If you plan to be active on social media, be authentically social. Engage with your followers. Reciprocate follows to like-minded accounts. Hit the like button on posts and add a comment. Share the love and do it as humanly as possible.
> Inflating your follower numbers is what wannabe influencers do to clinch gigs, deals, and free gear from sponsors. It’s dishonest and can be easily spotted. How so? If your posts get low engagement (likes and comments) but your follower number is high, that’s how you know an account is fake. Even if they buy likes for an individual post, the low engagement evidence is clearly there.
> Companies are starting to closely watch for this scammy behavior. (Some are also starting to ban influencers who do this.) Don’t engage in this. Curate a quality Twitter or Instagram feed. It takes a lot of work, consistent with the expectations. Also automating your feed is a no-no. Keep it real!
> Don’t Employ the Follow/Unfollow Method to Get Fast Followers
> Have you noticed that one person who employs the follow / unfollow option on Instagram and Twitter?
> You see that one wannabe influencer who appears to curate a neat feed, then notice they are following more people by the minute. You think, “Oh my goodness, this is super cool!” Sometimes even celebrities or well-known brands will follow you too. (I’ve been a recipient of that—who hasn’t?) But within an hour-to-24-hour span, that new follower — including that one cool celebrity or brand— is gone. Poof. They typically don’t follow again if they didn’t succeed in getting a follow from you. (Thank goodness. Bye!) A few days later, you may see that same person again. You think, What the heck?
> This is very common on Twitter in Republican circles. (And likely Democrat circles too.) I see some young politicos elevated by the last election, who think they’re all that, employ this tactic as well. When I don’t reciprocate a follow, I see they have unfollowed. (I have the technology to spot these capricious followers. You know who you are.) It’s not cool, and I won’t take you seriously. You’ve lost me as a potential follower by engaging in this practice. Heck, I may even block you for spamming my notifications. See how this works?
> Not all is lost though. When enough people notice this practice, they will unfollow these accounts. Their following numbers will take a hit, and rightly so. What gain in followers will you have when users spot the cheap tactics? Answer: nothing.
> Here’s a tidbit from someone who used to do this, cautioning social media users to steer clear of it:
> Follow 500 people and maybe 250 will follow you back. Then unfollow them and keep repeating until you reach your desired number of followers.This is the WORST advice. Here’s why : You’re sacrificing your morality for fame. Playing the follow-unfollow game is the quickest way to portray yourself as unreliable, pretentious and narcissistic.Even if you have a great feed, your lack of morality will douse any flame aroused in their mind.And the next time the come across your post, they’ll scroll past without even acknowledging it simply because they resent you as a person.
> If you want to project authenticity on social media, avoid this practice or else you’ll be perceived as a narcissistic, vain person. Don’t be that guy or gal!
> Don’t Follow / Unfollow, Then Block Someone Who Refuses to Follow Back
> Going off of the last point, some people take not reciprocating a follow too personally to the point of blocking you. I’ve had three people do this to me in the last week. Three people.
> Why would I or anyone who does social media consulting follow obscure or desperate Instagram and Twitter users / accounts who will immediately unfollow? Why would I give thought to that? I didn’t follow you back, big whoop.
Too many people are faking until they make it—inflating their accounts with likes and followers, but their engagement and lack of authentic comments shows otherwise.
Instagram is cracking down on users who engage in this fishy behavior. How so? Here’s what the changes will entail, per their Business Blog. This will include punishing users who use third-party apps to “follow-unfollow”, buy likes, buy followers, and engage in other fishy Instagram behavior:
Instagram says they will “take steps” to limit this type of “unwelcome behavior”by alerting the abusers with an in-app message informing them of “removed the inauthentic likes, follows and comments given by their account to others.”
> We will also ask them to secure their account by changing their password. People who use these types of apps share their username and password, and their accounts are sometimes used by third-party apps for inauthentic likes, follows and comments. Not only does this introduce bad behavior into the Instagram community, it also makes these accounts less secure.
You can read the full update here.
If you want to succeed in social media — especially Instagram — have something to show for. Start a business. Grow from the ground-up. Have something to offer that beckons a large following. Have a unique take on a cause and build from there. Be authentic—that’s how you’ll succeed on social media. And remember—it’s not about followers. It’s about reach, engagement, and gaining credibility in your field or industry.
Don’t aspire to be the next pundit or celebrity by replicating their style and deliberately misrepresenting your own.