Instagram is big business. We know this because Tree Frog Social is a part of the supporting ecosystem. Whenever there is money at stake, people will try to break the rules. When it comes to Instagram, the most egregious offense is buying fake followers.
Most users want as many followers as possible. In the early days of social networks, follower or friend count was a legitimate measure of how popular you were and how far your reach was. Today, that value has eroded. Users are less impressed by high follower counts and are instead attracted to ratio as a measure of influence–how many people follow you versus how many people you’re following. Further, in the age of smart news feeds, even having a good follower ratio doesn’t guarantee superior reach. Now, success is often measured by engagement rate.
Still, followers are easy and cheap to fake. There are marketplaces online where you can buy thousands for very little money (we don’t link to them because we shun the practice). So, why shouldn’t you?
I spend a lot of time researching the ever-changing social media scene. In many small communities, I have noticed a proliferation of users from far-flung regions offering guarantees of stupidly-cheap Instagram followers. It is obvious that these are fake followers, but, in some cases, it may not be obvious that the accepted payment methods can facilitate you not being able to get your money back if the business takes your money and never renders the service.
Scams are commonly carried out by those who have no reputation at stake. If you can’t find legitimate-sounding testimonials for a service, you should resist the urge to whip out your credit card.
Anyone selling fake followers pays basically nothing in terms of upkeep or maintenance. When you buy the followers, the seller presumably has a program that directs all the accounts under their control to follow your account. Most sellers are typically one or two-man operations. Do you think they have a customer service representative ready to hear your concerns if your followers disappear or if the product isn’t what you were promised? No. They’ll just take your money and move on. You should, too.
In 2018, it’s clear when an account has purchased followers or when an account has been purchased and repurposed for another niche. Sure, I do this for a living, but it’s painfully obvious to see someone sitting near a suspiciously round number of followers (say, 10,311) but only getting 36 likes on pictures.
The uninitiated might be impressed by your high follower count at first, but that’s more of an exception than a rule. People will be happy to snoop through your likes and followers to determine if you’re real or not. Buying fake followers might make you less likely to attract the type of followers that you really want.
Risk of Suspension
By breaking Instagram’s rules, you are running a risk of your account getting banned. I haven’t been able to confirm any stories of accounts just getting banned for purchasing fake followers. It would be tough for Instagram to ban people because it’s never clear whether an account owner is the one who actually purchased the followers. In any case, there have been rumors of Instagram punishing accounts that have high ratios of fake followers by throttling their reach. If true, this would have a crippling effect on any account with more fake than real followers.
Hopefully this post can convince you not to buy fake followers but to instead organically grow your brand by playing by the rules.