This article references followers but the information can also be translated to likes, friends, shares or retweets depending on your chosen social media platform.
Organic social media growth can be time consuming and it can be disheartening to see posts get minimum responses. You can spend hours creating content only to get a few hundred views, no comments or likes. It can be tempting to purchase fake likes and followers to boost your page numbers but are there any downsides? Why would buying fake followers benefit a social media account?
What are fake followers and how do I spot one?
Fake followers are fake accounts often created by bots, they usually have odd usernames or emails and no actual content posts themselves. Sometimes its obvious that an account is fake but other times it isn’t. The key questions to ask when judging a profile are:
- Is there username a jumble of numbers and letters?
- Do they have a custom profile picture?
- Do they post many status updates?
- Do they have many followers/friends?
- Do they post any origin content or is it all shares and retweets?
If the answer to most of these is No then it’s most likely a fake account. These accounts are created for a sole purpose of following a page for money. These accounts are not your target audience or potential customers so will have no affect on your business growth.
This has become such a problem that services have been created to test accounts for fake followers. TwitterAudit is a tool that scans your Twitter followers and works out what percentage of them are fake based on an algorithm. It takes a large sample of your followers (or all of them if your number of followers is below their maximum) and checks the age of the profile, the number of tweets and compares its followers. Recently it made the news that Donald Trump’s Twitter followers jumped by 5 million over three days. Of course, it is entirely possible that these are authentic followers given that he is the President of the United States but suspicions arose when someone discovered that most of the new followers accounts had been created in May 2017. Running Donald Trumps Twitter account through TwitterAudit shows that 49% of his followers are fake.
Why would you want fake followers?
If you are searching Facebook for a local company and you come across two pages with hugely different follower numbers which one are you more likely to consider? The page with 5,000 followers or the page with 250 followers? Of course the page with the higher number of followers is going to look more trusting and established, without meaning to you have judged a page based on the number of followers.
Having a large number of followers will affect the immediate judgement of your page but if a potential customer looks at your page and notices that you have no engagement this is going to give mixed signals. Why would a page have 5,000 followers but only get 2-5 likes per post and 0 comments? Because the followers are fakes and are nothing more than a number.
Are there any dangers to buying fake followers?
Yes, there can be. First of all, any company offering followers for money is not going to be trustworthy. You should be cautious giving your bank card details to any company over the internet but you should definitely think twice before handing over your personal details to a company who’s service is providing fake data.
Back in 2014, Instagram became aware of the many fake Instagram accounts that were using its service. They decided to perform a purge of these accounts, deleting millions of fake profiles affecting the follower numbers of hundreds of celebrities. High profile accounts had their follower numbers drop drastically overnight. Justin Bieber saw his followers drop by over 3,500,00, Kim Kardashian lost over 1,300,00 and Beyonce lost around 832,000. Even Instagram themselves went from 64.1 million followers to just 19 million. To see the full extent of the 100 most affected profiles of the 2014 purge, visit 64.px. As a result of this some profiles were left with so few followers they deleted their accounts. Instagram now routinely run purges on fake accounts, trying to focus their platform on genuine, original content.
Lastly, it’s also entirely possible that your accounts will be banned by the social networks themselves. For instance, it is actually against Instagram's terms of service to purchase fake accounts to boost your follower numbers. If your profile is repeatedly buying fake followers they have the right to shut down your account for good.
When should you consider buying fake followers?
If you’re an aspiring designer, model, musician etc agencies often won’t pay you any attention without a few thousand followers. This can hold you back, agencies are often the only way to advance your career in these areas.
Here’s where buying followers can be a good idea, if all you need is a high follower account and aren’t using social media to sell a product. Buying fake followers can be risky, if found out your account can be banned but that's a risk you would have to assess based on what you want to achieve with your account.
I would never suggest this as a viable option but it’s important to look at both sides of the argument.
Conclusion: Should you buy fake followers?
No. What if you spend a few hundred £s on fake followers only to have Facebook/Instagram/Twitter catch on and delete the fake accounts or worse, close down and ban your profile? That money you just spent has at best been wasted and at worst damaged your online reputation.
Spend your money on reputable social media management and content creation to help your profiles grow organically. You will see a higher return on investment, higher engagement rates and much stronger and more positive experience advertising your brand on social media.