Buying followers: is it worth the investment?

When it comes to running an online business these days, social media, or rather social media marketing is crucial to any and all success. Whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube – all companies need a social media presence in order to reach their intended audience. Getting started with a social network is incredibly easy and in no time at all you can set up a company Facebook page or indeed a company Instagram account as well.

An effective social media strategy requires plenty of time and energy. Posts and content should be planned weeks in advance and cooperation with influencers fostered. But professional, well-maintained channels also need fans and followers to see them. This might seem easy but actually getting started with these platforms can be more difficult than it first appears. Followers rarely just appear; instead they require patience and a hardworking approach. Some businesses are tempted by the option of simply buying followers as a short cut to social media success. Buying likes is also seen as a viable and interesting option. But just how useful is this approach?

The business of likes and followers

Where can you actually buy followers? As you will see there is no shortage online of suppliers who all claim to be specialists in the area of ‘buying followers’.  A quick Google search will produce an incredibly long list of websites, all of which offer some sort of service for purchasing followers. Here of the two most popular sites:

With over 1 million customers a year, SocialShop.co claims to be the no.1 place on the internet to build a social media presence. It offers ‘packages’ across a wide selection of social media; from Facebook likes and Instagram followers, to things like YouTube views as well as SoundCloud downloads. A closer look at the products on offer informs you that the ‘Micro’ package (100 followers) will currently cost you $3 whereas $10 (‘Starter’ package) will get you 1000 followers. The prices are very similar when it comes to Facebook ‘likes’ as well as Twitter followers. All you need to do is select the package you want, enter your profile’s URL and then checkout. The website offers ‘Super fast delivery’ and payment methods include Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, etc.

Another website is Buycheapestfollowers.com. Of all the websites on the market, this one seems to offer the largest range of services. Here the option of purchasing fans, followers, and downloads isn’t just limited to the most popular social media channels, but also available for other platforms like Tumblr and Vimeo. Additionally there is also grading criteria pertaining to purchased fans and followers. This means for example, that you can buy Instagram followers who are either high quality (1000 for around $9) or semi-active (2000 for around $9). Furthermore there is also the option to buy ‘real country-targeted Instagram followers’ (100 followers for around $9). Payment methods include credit card or PayPal, and there is also a ‘100% money back guarantee’.

As is evident from both of these examples, buying followers and likes is not expensive. For very little money you can easily add a couple of thousand followers to your Instagram and who, according to the suppliers, will be visible on your profile within days.

Pretend ‘influencers’

Here’s the catch though; a profile that in the space of a few days suddenly has 10,000 more followers, does not come across as organic and authentic. This may be largely irrelevant for some companies as usually a fast-growing corporate channel rarely bothers anyone. However across social media there are individuals as well as companies who make their living from collaborations on Instagram, YouTube, etc. These include bloggers, video bloggers, models, etc. all of whom fall under the general label of ‘influencer’.

If you happen to be a blogger or influencer, companies seeking potential collaborations, can very quickly tell if you have acquired your followers organically, or if you have in fact paid for the majority of your likes and fans. There are many tools out there which can analyze an account within seconds. If they notice that an account has indeed bought followers, it’s highly unlikely that they will still be interested in a collaboration. Stats are also not the only indicator of whether an account has purchased followers. Usually a quick glance at a follower list will tell you everything you need to know, as bought followers often have cryptic names and are missing profile pictures. 

100,000 followers - no interaction

To sum up, it seems to us that buying followers in general is a questionable approach that in the end rarely does much good. Companies looking to find themselves an influencer to collaborate with should allow themselves plenty of time to see whether a blogger or Instagram star has actually acquired their followers organically. At the end of the day, 100,000 followers really doesn’t mean anything if there is no corresponding interaction. An account is only as good as its interactions.

User engagement is one of the most important online marketing KPIs, in social media marketing. Generally followers who have been bought will have little or no interest in posts made by companies or influencers.  Only in the rarest of cases will a purchased follower like and comment on a post, so the engagement rate is usually quite poor. For this reason these are sites that also sell likes and comments, but the danger here then is that you may once again find yourself quickly running out of funds.

Overall it makes a lot more sense to invest time and energy in creating great content and campaigns, allowing you to naturally generate followers. It may be that the best way of achieving this is through collaboration with influencers, but as stated above, be careful which influencers you choose.

More on the topic of influencer marketing as well as a whole series of articles on Instagram for businesses can be found in our Digital Guide.