Should You Pay to Gain Social Media Followers?

By on May 3, 2019

 Image courtesy of MaxPixel

Small business owners have long understood the importance of their social media presence as a part of their larger marketing efforts. In order to boost their presence across each major platform—particularly Facebook and Instagram—many have turned to buying social media followers.

If you’ve been having a hard time building a following, buying helps boost your numbers. A $10 purchase appears to net you thousands of followers, more than if you’d spent hours creating good content—so why go through all that effort?

To buy social media followers, you pay a third-party service to enlist thousands of accounts—some real, but many of them fake—to follow your handle. Some services promise “quality” followers, and you’ll have to pay more for those.

Does it make sense for your small business to buy followers, even for just a short period, in order to jumpstart your social media efforts? Let’s break it down.

How to buy social media followers

There is no shortage of companies that will help you buy social media followers. You can use more mainstream sites such as eBay or Fiverr, or find platforms that exist specifically for building social media followings, such as Hypez (for Instagram) or FollowerSale (for Twitter). Other tools like Archie offer services that are purportedly more above board, such as helping you find new followers to engage with naturally.

Most follower-sellers will insist that they deliver real accounts, rather than ghosts or “bots.” There’s little way to verify this outside of their claims—and you’ll see for yourself quickly whether the accounts following you are legitimate or not.

For as little as $10 for 1,000 followers, you usually see you follower count rise within hours of your purchase.

Other ways to attract followers without paying

There are other services and tactics you can use to artificially inflate your follower count without paying for it, if you’re opposed to that concept or don’t want to use your business credit card to buy followers.

One well-known hack is to use “engagement groups” for the social media platform you want to boost. There are groups for everything from Instagram to LinkedIn and YouTube. They’re a way for follower hunters to gain new followers, likes, and comments.

As shown in this video from Entrepreneur, joining an engagement group is free, but it also involves taking time out of your day to individually follow, like, and comment on accounts you normally wouldn’t spend time with.

As a result of joining an engagement group, Entrepreneur’s editor has tens of thousands of followers. He also gets comments on his posts that read like robots trying to be human. As we’ll discuss in a bit, that kind of engagement likely won’t work out in your favor.

The pros of buying social media followers

There’s a reason it’s possible to buy social media followers: It’s a popular practice that lots of businesses, brands, celebrities, influencers, and other big names of social media engage in.

Here’s why some people say it’s worth it to buy your social media followers:

Increased social proof

Let’s say you’ve taken the time to create some quality social media content, but you’re having a hard time gaining traction with your posts. An increase in social media followers can provide social proof that your account is worth following and your content is worth consuming. An account with 100 followers, even a young one, just seems less trustworthy than one with 10,000 or more.

Keep up with other accounts

It’s easy to feel as though everyone is buying followers except for you. Even major celebrities have “fake followers,” as a massive Twitter purge in 2018 resulted in Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, among others, losing millions of followers. Is it really cheating if everyone is doing it?

The cons of buying social media followers 

As you may have guessed by now, the drawbacks of buying social media followers outweigh the benefits. Here’s a rundown of why inflating your follower account by even a few thousand usually turns out to be a net negative in the long run:

Your bought followers won’t buy your products

Some of your new followers may be real people, but it’s impossible to say that these followers will fit your buyer personas, or be a part of your target market. In a sense, you will be wasting your subsequent social media marketing efforts on people who are uninterested to your content.

A lack of engagement harms your chances of gaining organic followers

Lots of pay-for-social media follower services offer to populate your follower count. Here’s the problem with that: If those followers then don’t engage with your content—liking, sharing, and/or commenting—it will appear to the social network you’re using that your content doesn’t resonate with your followers. In other words, your engagement metrics will suffer.

Engagement with your audience is what influences networks like Instagram to slot your content at the top of followers’ feeds, or to feature it on the “Discover” page where you can possibly gain new organic followers. By buying social media followers now, you’ll actually hurt your chances of accumulating new ones going forward.

Bizarre engagement may also drive off new followers

Some platforms or tactics promise that you’ll gain not only followers, but engagement, heading off the problem of your engagement metrics suffering.

More often than not, however, they’ll simply provide your comment feed with bots, adding vague or nonsensical comments to your posts. While lots of major brand feeds feature bots, spammers, and trolls, a small business social media feed with lots of non-relevant engagement may drive off potentially interested followers with this shady tactic.

Social media networks are cracking down on this tactic

Every few months, another social media network announces a purge of fake followers from their platform. Last year, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all announced major crackdowns, with Instagram alerting users that they were cracking down on “inauthentic activity.”

As social media networks become more concerned with fake news and information spreading on their platforms, it will only be harder and harder to gain paid followers without drawing scrutiny.

Your performance metrics will be skewed

The best argument a small business could make for buying followers is that it might jumpstart their social media traction. But once you have a legion of followers who either don’t respond to your content, or respond inanely, how will you know what content of yours is actually good, on-brand, and worth replicating?

Your performance metrics on social media help you understand what content actually resonates. A bunch of paid followers disrupts your data and makes it difficult to glean real information about what you post in earnest. If what you’re posting now isn’t making a dent, maybe the problem isn’t your number of followers, but your content.

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So, should you pay to gain social media followers? The short answer is no. Whatever traction you do gain in the short-term will be counteracted by blows to your overall engagement, metrics, and future chances of gaining real followers. The time and money you spend on gaining paid followers should be spent instead on creating informational, entertaining content that nets you some real new fans.

About Eric Goldschein

Eric Goldschein is a staff writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as business loans. He covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, finance, and marketing.
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