For the record, buying followers or fake engagement is definitely not recommended
As a millennial and extreme social media user, I religiously rely on the Instagram algorithm to inform me about the newest trends and the content that I want to see. It is the easiest way for me to learn about new skincare products that are going to change my life forever, the new fashion trend to try or the latest app for music, wellbeing or productivity. And, I am not the only person who relies on Instagram and credible, trustworthy and authentic influencers and recommendations. Instagram has 800 million users and counting!
The drive to build a following and the expansion of influencer marketing as a legitimate marketing channel has transformed Instagram and the way we use it. Among influencers, there is immense competition on the platform which drives the temptation to cheat the system and jump up higher and faster than the rest. But we're here to set the record straight - do not buy followers or fake engagements, ever.
Fake followers and fake engagements will never be a smart investment - while it might seem like a quick win, it will do more damage to your account and your personal brand in the long run, trust us. Brands are cracking down on influencer fraud, so you need to ensure that you Instagram with honesty and authenticity.
Here are some things to keep in mind...
1. Fake followers don't engage with your content
You know when you see those accounts that have 10,000 Instagram followers but only 15 posts and less than 100 likes and comments on each post. Yep, they're probably fake followers and it's a dead giveaway to brands and marketers.
Buying followers do not lead to higher engagement or increased sales for the brands you work with - in fact, it does the opposite. When you purchase followers you engagement rate is skewed, because the majority of your audience is not engaged with your content. It is much better to have 3,000 followers and an engagement rate of 5% than 10,000 followers and an engagement rate below 1%.
2. Fake love is not real love
Are you willing to put the integrity of your personal brand, your reputation and your business at risk for fake love? Please say no! Brands and influencers need to remember that trust takes precedence over love, or "love." And when it comes to influencer marketing, it only works when the audience genuinely trusts the influencer and values their recommendations.
If your followers don’t trust you, they won’t engage with your content, and they won't listen to what you are trying to tell them. If a real person is not genuinely behind an account that follows you or comments on your content, what is the point of sharing your experiences. You may as well talk to a brick wall.
3. Fake followers don't know your why
Something our Anna Harrison, our head of Product at Scrunch regularly says is - can bots buy shoes? No. Can humans buy shoes? Yes. On that same note, can a bot or a fake follower understand and appreciate your "Why"? The answer is no. That should guide you on what is acceptable when it comes to building an organic, authentic audience.
Share your why with your community to help establish trust and authenticity. It is this emotional connection that drives a person to become an engaged follower—they must believe in you and your why.
4. Be wary of an Instagram purge
Back in 2014, Instagram deleted a large amount of user accounts that were considered to be fake accounts. This impacted everyone, whether they had bought followers or not - it's important to note that while you may not have purchased followers, there may be fake accounts and bots following you on Instagram. For scale, Justin Bieber had over 23 million followers and lost 3.5 million followers in the mass clean up of spammy accounts.
Now, this isn’t so scathing on a celebrity’s status, however, this was detrimental for some influencers who readily relied on fake accounts to bolster their "influence." So, don't rely on fake followers, they are not a safety blanket!
5. No one actually cares how many followers you have
Marketers and brands are shifting their focus away from vanity metrics like follower range and are instead focusing on more data-driven metrics like engagement rate, average engagements per post, follower growth rate and audience analysis. The industry is changing, and so too is the focus on followers, which is a good thing. Focus on creating high quality content, engaging with your community and building relationships with brands who truely value the work you are doing, and your contribution to their marketing strategy.
There are no shortcuts to becoming an Instagram influencer and building an engaged following requires time, effort, passion and an integrated strategy. Know your followers and engage with them, and make sure you regularly audit your followers and your account (some tips on how to do that here).
So, are you Instagramming with honesty?