Is Buying Social Media Followers & Engagements a Good Idea?
When it comes to online marketing, social media is rapidly becoming the canvas on which marketers like to paint and buying social media followers can be very tempting. Social media is a medium that is full of potential consumers and organic opportunities to advertise your business. Beyond that, there is nothing quite like social media when it comes to customer engagement and building a brand. Where else can you communicate with customers who are thousands of miles away from your headquarters? Some of the best social media websites for marketing your company include:
But, what happens when you can’t seem to score followers or engagements in the thousands? What happens if you get stuck at 300 followers with only a handful of interactions to speak of? You might think about buying social media followers, but is it really worth it?
How Do You “Buy” Followers?
The concept of buying followers might seem simultaneously sketchy and terrific. On one hand, you are getting a host of new followers (and a much larger social cachet) without having to put in the work of producing content day after day. On the other hand, you don’t really know where these followers are even coming from.
In general, purchased followers come from the ether. They are manufactured and sold to clients looking to increase the appearance of popularity on their social media accounts.1 After all, having 30,000 Twitter followers looks a lot better than having 300. You can buy these followers from firms that operate in a sort of digital “black market.” Of course, selling followers isn’t technically illegal, but it can be frowned upon.
Buying Twitter followers is often fairly cheap. Some estimates suggest that 1,000 new Twitter followers will run you about $1.75. One thousand Facebook likes will cost about $35. According to one estimate, the price tag for social media superiority costs just under $7,000 and can get you all of the following:2
- 20,000 likes on Facebook
- 1 million Twitter followers
- 1 million YouTube views
- 10,000 followers on Tumblr
- 5,000 followers in Pinterest
- 5,000 followers on Instagram
- 250 comments on your blog
- 1,000 views on Vimeo
On paper, this looks great, but how are all these views, comments, likes, and followers being generated?
Who Are These Purchased Followers?
The large majority of purchased followers are, unfortunately, fake accounts. These accounts are run by bots whose sole purpose is to follow certain accounts and then sit inert. In 2013, Twitter estimated that 5% (or 10.75 million) of its accounts were actually fake3 Facebook revealed in 2012 that a full 83 million accounts on its website were fraudulent.4 You can guess that many of these fake accounts were purchased with the express purpose of inflating follower numbers. Likewise, purchased YouTube views and Facebook likes are all generated by fake accounts. This means, among other things, that you will have no organic engagement with your new horde of hollow accounts. You will simply have the appearance of popularity.
Pros and Cons of Paid Followers
The immediate pros to paying for social media followers are easy to imagine. You get the appearance of having a large following which may improve your chances of garnering actual followers. It may also give you a sense of pride (no matter how manufactured it may be) in the robustness of your social media presence. But, pride may be the only thing that gets boosted in this scenario.
Indeed, the chances of getting caught are increased exponentially. If you have 300 followers one day and then you suddenly have 300,000 the next day, then people are naturally going to get suspicious. It won’t take long for them to look through your followers to see that you have a bunch of inactive zombies following you.
Mitt Romney came under fire in 2012 when he was accused of purchasing fake Twitter followers. An independent audit discovered that both Romney and President Barack Obama had follower base’s that were composed of over 20% fake accounts.5 To be fair, most accounts are followed by a large number of fake bots, but if the number is overwhelmingly skewed, then you run the risk of losing your credibility.
If you think your site’s SEO status will be boosted by buying social media followers will boost your SEO status, then think again. Google has been able to identify fake followers for years now and a social media account filled with zombie adherents isn’t going to give you a bump one way or the other.6
Rather than buying social media followers, one of the best ways to get a social media bump is to have multiple accounts on multiple platforms. Don’t limit your business to only a Twitter account. Add Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and others to build up a robust online profile. Although you may find it difficult to handle all of these accounts simultaneously, you will undoubtedly improve your SEO standing and increase your chances for engagement.7
All in all, you should not measure the success of a social media campaign that has been manufactured from buying social media followers and likes. Having real, organic engagements is the only way to successfully boost your online profile and measure your social media success. It’s also a great way to keep your reputation and credibility squeaky clean.