New clients who are starting an Instagram account from zero often ask if we can buy followers to boost their numbers at the beginning. We always answer with a resounding no. Having worked on accounts with clients that have insisted on purchasing fake followers, we can speak from experience on how damaging fake followers can be to your current online community and how they make your hard work of strategizing and content creating completely pointless.
Bought Followers are Just a Number
When you buy followers you are only guaranteed one thing, the number of your followers to go up for a short amount of time. Here's a list of things a higher following number WON'T gain you:
your posts showing on the Explore Page
higher Accounts Reached number
any form of engagement at all
long term, organic growth
What's It Like to Buy Instagram Followers?
Our friends over at Hootsuite performed an experiment where they bought followers and shared their results so you don't have to experiment with your own Instagram account. The account Hootsuite bought followers for did indeed receive those followers! They weren't scammed, and they received their 1,000 followers in the timeline promised. But check out what these followers looked like below ...
They are so obviously fake! They've barely posted, and their posts are generic. Some don't even have bios. Their usernames have strings of random numbers and letters. Their followers to following ratio is the final straw in their validity. Who has 2 followers and follows 1,194 people? Fake accounts.
These followers also decreased rapidly for the account. They lost 50 followers by 5 days past their purchase date. These companies don't promise that these bots will stay; they only promise the follow. And guess what else the companies can't promise - these followers having any real connection to your brand or products. That boost to your vanity metrics isn't going to convert to anything real for your business. And with extra followers dripping on and off of your account, your Instagram insights will be useless to you.
No Way To Analyze Your Metrics
Analyzing your metrics is a great way to see what content you post is performing the best and what times your followers are most active. If 1/2 of your followers are bots, these numbers will be way off. Bots are sporadicly "active" so the accounts aren't deleted from Instagram. Sometimes bots are programmed to be "active" at odd hours of the night, which will ruin your metrics about when your real life followers are active. Your metrics are also a great way to see which posts gain you followers. If you’ve subscribed to a service that gives you a slow steady drip of fake followers, your analytics about gaining followers will be completely useless. If you ever hope to gain organic growth on your Instagram account, reading and utilizing your analytics is key. If your analytics aren't accurate, organic growth will be near impossible.
Engagement is NOT Guaranteed
We've mentioned this already, but it has to be stressed again. Raising your followers number will not raise your engagement numbers. And what does the Instagram algorithm reward? Engagement. The more people interact with your posts, the more likely your posts will be suggested to other users. If you have a high followers numbers but low engagement, Instagram's algorithm will come to the conclusion that your content isn't worth showing to others - and what's even worse, they will show it less on the feeds of your real followers.
It Violates Instagram’s Community Guidelines
At the end of the day, buying followers is against Instagram's rules. If you buy followers, you run the risk of your account being completely disabled by Instagram. While your account may not be fully disabled, Instagram will restrict you from using certain Instagram features, and your account will receive new features later in Instagram's roll out timeline. Read an excerpt from Instagram's Community Guidelines below to get the facts straight from the source.
How Can People Tell My Followers Are Fake?
The biggest giveaway is a large follower number paired with small likes/comments numbers. While it's true that the bigger an account gets the lower their engagement rates goes, it would still not be as abysmal as the engagement rate of an account with fake followers. We're talking 20K followers, and 12 likes on a post. That's. Not. Real. Sure - the Instagram algorithm is weird and all of your followers don't see your posts in their feed. Let's halve the number then for the sake of the algorithm. 10K of your 20K followers saw your post and only TWELVE stopped to double tap? This smells like fake from a mile away.
And if you don't think Instagram users can tell your followers are fake just by looking, there are plenty of websites that will analyze your profile (for free) for fake followers and fake engagement. This is especially useful for brand deals, and we double check influencer's numbers all the time with websites like Hype Auditor to make sure that their numbers aren't inflated.
End of the day - buying followers does "work." You can find a sketchy website, give them your credit card number, and followers will start flooding into your account. But that's where the "benefits" end. Your followers number will grow, but your sales, brand recognition, and engagement will remain stagnant. We promise that the long, steady work of creating organic growth on Instagram will be worth it in the end. The saying is true: "Slow and steady wins the (Instagram) race."