When it comes to success on social media, you should be very careful with shortcuts. Trying to find a quick solution to create or improve your online presence is like rushing a nine month pregnancy, it won't ever work. Buying followers have been the way thousands and thousands of users have found to become popular on social media and to show the so wanted impressive numbers. Although buying followers might seem like an easy and quick solution to your brand's desire for popularity it could generate irreversible damages to it and here's everything you need to know about the bad practice.
To assemble a strong online presence your brand will need time and a lot of effort. To build a reputation and be influential online don't come at a price of followers, but with the ownership of expertise. As time and effort are scarce words on a daily workload of many companies, brands are looking for third parties apps and bots to facilitate their life and to achieve quick (palliative) results.
The understanding of how those applications work on getting new followers is the starting point to understand how your platform really function and how you should be creative when it comes to organically grow your business.
How it works
The magic of buying followers doesn't require much. It's not like going to an online shopping and ordering a couple of thousands of followers. The whole system was built as a community available for like, sharing and following each other's content, looking to increase social media numbers like followers and likes. As much innocent as it looked, the whole process got more and more complex and apps saw a great opportunity to use those communities to make money, offering a timesaving solution if you didn't want to spend too much time liking and sharing other's people content.
Let's start by saying that every app has (or might have) specific functionalities. In this specific case, I've chosen Instagram as the social media channel, but there are other services out there promising the same for other social media as well. Although completely different, they all follow the same basic system and this system it's all that you need to know to understand the followers shopping activity.
1. You have to login to the app's platform. That would give the app access to your account allowing them to perform actions as you.
2. Once all is set up, the app will provide a list of photos and profiles. Every time a new photo or profile comes up, you have the opportunity to press the like/follow button and be rewarded for it. Likes might earn you 1 coin while following might get you 5 coins.
3. Once you start to collect coins you will be able to exchange those coins for actions that you desire. You can exchange for photo likes or new followers. Every app has a different exchange value. In some cases, 200 coins might get you 150 photo likes or 50 followers.
4. The more you spend time on the app liking and following new people, more coins you'll be able to receive, to finally exchange for actions back to the page you requested.
Pretty simple, hun? And to be honest, a quite witty move. That was a clever way to control the damage that the Instagram algorithm change of 2016 did to engagement levels. This practice of liking, commenting and sharing each other's content isn't so hard to find. Users are creating Instagram Pods with small communities that help each other making into top posts page and other like JustRetweet that allows the Twitter user's to do the same, even using the rewarding system.
The problem really starts when apps decided to provide an alternative to their users adding a shopping system to acquire coins. For the ones that don't want to spend hours going thought strangers content, you can simply buy coins using your credit card and then exchange those coins for new followers or media likes. Let's say that the app promises you 1000 followers at a cost of 5000 coins. To collect 5000 coins without investing any money, you'll have to spend hours liking and following other users in the community. But the app has a quick solution for this problem. It will also offer you to spend a certain amount of money to skip all the hassle of organically earning the coins by doing it in a matter of seconds. Once you have made the purchase, which sometimes can be somewhere around 200 euros for 2000 followers, the coins are deposited immediately into your app account, allowing you to exchange all those coins for followers, according to the given exchange list, which each app has to offer. And that's how the magic of buying followers happens.
But how does the app find a person to follow the user who is buying followers' account? It's very simple. At this point, the app has already created a large community looking for quick success on social media. Their algorithm will now put the followers-buyer profile in the front line to be followed by other users of the community interested to earn coins for themselves. This way the app promises you to give you 100% real followers. However, even intensively promoting a user's profile to secure the “organic” gain of followers, the app might not be able to provide the promised numbers. If my request involves 1000 followers, the app will need more than just promoting more account to members of the community. That's how those apps have developed fake accounts, commanded by social media bots, to lead the dirty work.
Those accounts are completely blank of information. They have illegible names, no profile pictures; neither any content published. But they still hold the status of a social media account and therefore represent an additional number to your followers. Once you hit the request button and exchange your coins for followers in a matter of 60 seconds you can earn thousands and thousands of followers. That's how fast the app works. It's actually very impressive.
So there you have it. With a couple of hundred euros, you can earn around 2000 followers (depending on the exchange rate of the chosen app). In a matter of seconds, you skipped months of hard work and investment to collected the covet numbers that your brand is looking for.
The bad news is: Every shortcut comes with a cost.
Every marketer should know that the most important thing to a successful marketing strategy is the understanding of your audience. Without an audience, a brand would not exist. And every brand has their own customer base, with their own needs and expectations towards your services and values.
If your brand has followers that are actively interacting with your brand by liking, commenting and sharing content, congratulation, you have created an audience to speak to. Those users are very important to your brand. They will provide insights about your content, new products, reviews, brand news and activities, all necessary to create successful marketing strategies. Also, they most likely represent your buyer persona and they will be the ones responsible for endorsing and advocating for your brand online and offline.
When a fast follower gain tool is activated you're possibly signing up your brand to lose almost completely its customer's characteristics and with that, it goes also their personality and engagement levels. All of sudden your account will be filled with people completely strange to your brand and values, coming from different parts of the world, talking different languages and most of the times with completely blank profiles. Your account now has earned the numbers that were desperately looking for, but at the same time has gathered an unreliable audience, with complete disinterest in your brand, very likely to unfollow you in a few days.
With thousands of followers now you might decide to take the next step and advertise your business online. With this massive audience that you just acquire your sales will increase exponentially, right? Wrong. Your audience is now all over the place. Your reports will have very unusual results and you will end up wasting money showing your ad to users that aren't interested in it. Your return on investment will be very low and your account will be forever damaged.
You have now over 10k followers and you couldn't be happier. But every time you post a new picture it only scores a couple of hundred likes. What does that say about your brand?
That's the easiest way to spot an account that has used unconventional ways to get new followers. Although low engagement levels with a high number of followers don't always mean buying followers, this is a good indication that something might be wrong. And the explanation is simple. If you have thousands of followers that (supposedly) love your content, why aren't they liking, commenting and sharing your content?
Because they just don't exist. And for the ones that look like real accounts they probably aren't interested in you at all. Engagement levels can be spotted based on likes and comments rate of an account.
“To calculate a reasonably accurate engagement rate, take the follower in question, and the average amount of total likes + comments for their past 10 photos. Thake this number and divide it by their number of followers, then multiply this number by 100”. (Caleydimmock.com)
Low engagement rates will bring down your brand's credibility. If your audience isn't responding well to the content your publishing every day your audience will raise a question whether your business is legit or not. Once the trust between customer and brand is broken your company will no longer have its customer's endorsement and your brand will reach a dangerous identity crisis.
Especially, for a company that does online shopping, reputation is fundamental. According to Adweek.com “81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying”. When doing their research if customers spot any suspicious or unusual activities regarding fake followers or fake news, they will be very unlikely to buy your product.
As result of low credibility, companies are finding very hard to quantify the return of investment when it comes to their efforts on Social Media. They believe that a high number of followers will surely bring new customers, but they are wrong. Mostly, because they believe that the converting lead into sales is just a matter of getting followers, no matter who they are. What they are failing to identify is the weight of those followers and how much they are willing to advocate for their brand. And this is a direct result of creating a credible online presence.
The only way is being in charge of your audience again, by removing one by one all the followers you gained because of the use of fast results apps. Unfortunately, that's a very tiresome task and it could take forever, so think very well before compromising your account looking for alternate routes.
Social media is all about entertainment and taking actions enticing customers desire to discover more about your brand. Social Media also gives you and your brand a personality and the right to have an online voice and express your mission and values. And with that comes a lot of responsibility. To build a strong online presence all you need is powerful content, smart targeting, a lot of creativity and time. It takes time. Once that reputation is damaged and the trust is broken the damage sometimes can be irreversible.
Having a large number of followers or page likes might reach the desired effect to look like a successful brand. The problem with palliative measures like buying followers is all the consequences that come with it. If you're having problems finding the best way to achieve your goals on social media, look for a social media specialist to help you to take you to where you want to go. A social media specialist will help you creating a proficient social media marketing strategy, following your brand guidelines, with diverse quality content to target a specific audience, according to your brand buyer personas. A good social media specialist should be up to date with automation, scheduling, tracking and reporting tools to make sure perfect insights of your online activities.
If you are looking to know more about social media you should read also:
For more about our services click here