I bet whoever said "money can’t buy you friends" had no idea that one day they would be for sale on social media! But as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become great places for marketing and advertising businesses, a growing number of brands have been lured into buying followers to keep up with the competition. Not only are followers being bought, but engagement is for sale as well, including likes, comments and story views.
Unfortunately, buying followers and engagement most of the time ends up being a waste of time, money and resources; not to mention it can do serious, permanent damage to your brand. How, you say? Trying to trick the system can backfire on you, actually reducing your engagement and ruining your reputation by giving you a spammy social media presence that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of potential followers and paying customers.
Late last year, Instagram began removing "inauthentic" likes, followers and comments from the posts of accounts that used third-party apps to artificially beef up their follower and engagement numbers. Earlier in 2018, Facebook and Twitter had mounting similar crackdowns, removing tens of millions of paid-for likes and followers, while closing untold numbers of fake accounts with the goal of restoring trust in both users and advertisers on the platform. This left many brands looking like a fraud when their followers noticed the drastic drop, not to mention they were out the money they had spent buying followers. (To learn how to increase your account organically read 10 Ways to Boost Traffic and Engagement on Instagram)
Why Some Businesses Resort to Buying Phony Engagement
Likes. Followers. Views. Comments. They’re all for sale on the web and social media's less-than-hidden black market. Simply type "buy likes" into sites like Fiverr and check out the results, or put the same phrase in Google's search engine and you'll turn up more than a few results featuring unscrupulous click farms that sell fake engagement, many for super-low prices.
The reason many businesses bite on it is simple: Engagement happens to be a vital metric, and likes and follows often translate to social media success.
That's because under Facebook and Instagram's new algorithms engagement has much greater importance. As organic traffic has dipped, brands have sought to give themselves a leg up by getting more likes and comments, which helps posts to get more exposure.
Unfortunately, purchasing likes and followers is also viewed by many businesses and entrepreneurs who lack the time and ability to build real engagement on social media as a great shortcut. When in reality buying followers and engagement bots to increase your numbers can sabotage your social media marketing strategy and endanger your business itself.
Why It's Never a Good Idea to Buy Likes or Followers
It’s easy to understand many people's motivation. At first thought, having a bunch of likes and followers (even if you paid for them) may seems like a win-win situation, but that's only true if you have earned them fair and square.
The reasoning is this: Although the appearance of having more social engagement and popularity could conceivably have some short-term perks — like attracting real users and prompting some of them to start following you, giving your brand a sense of authority and enticing influencers to collaborate — faking it could do you more harm than good. Here’s how:
- It Gives You a Sleazy Rep
If your real audience get wind of the fact that you pay for bogus engagement you'll no doubt turn many against you and your brand. Just stop and think for a second: if you don't have enough faith in your own business to work hard to attract real people, why should real people trust you?
- Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Will Make You Pay the Price
If any of the Big Three social networks find out that you have bought likes or followers, they will quickly remove them from all of your posts. And if you get caught more than once you could even be banned, either temporarily or permanently, causing permanent damage to your business.
- Fake Engagement Doesn’t Mean Real Business
No matter how many likes or followers you get, accounts that give you false engagement will never actually do business with you. The best you can hope for is looking more popular than you are. Unlike real followers, fake followers are little more than automated bots or lines of programming code. They will never pay for your products or services, and certainly won't become unofficial cheerleaders for your brand.
If you're still not convinced that you should never buy likes or followers (or simply don't believe you'll ever be caught), think again. All three social media giants have created sophisticated technology to uncover bogus engagement. (Read 8 Ways to Boost Traffic and Engagement on Facebook to learn how to boost real engagement.) Plus, there are also some red flags that your real followers see that give away that you paid to play:
- If the accounts that like your posts or follow you have profiles that show little activity or no posting activity, have few followers or likes of their own, include no profile photo, bear a comical alias or haven't been updated in years, they are known to be accounts that were created for the express purpose of making fake likes or follows.
- If any like-buying services happen to follow your social media account (they will if you become a customer), it's a near-certainty that you buy likes and followers, since these shady operators blatantly advertise their services right in their social profiles.
As you can see buying followers and engagement will typically get you the opposite of the results you are craving. Instead, create a solid, long-term strategy to organically and authentically build your social presence. Yes, getting real likes and followers organically requires time and effort, so there will be no instant results. But the flip side is, not only will your business legitimately grow its following and engagement, you will also build trust and long-term bonds with your followers, making it easier to convert them into customers.