For less than $7, you could buy a venti iced Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks — or 500 Instagram followers. The former will satisfy your sweet tooth; the latter could put you on track to be a bonafide influencer. And with Instagram influencer status comes lucrative brand deals.
Buying Instagram followers is insanely easy and has become relatively cheap. In 2012, Forbes reported that you could get 1,000 followers for $90. Now, there are multiple sites, including InstaBoostGram, Buzzoid, and iDigic, where you can get as many as 10,000 followers for less than $70. That’s not much when you consider that top influencers can bring in hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in brand deals.
The followers you buy can be a mix of bot accounts and legitimate users who have signed up for what’s known as “credit Likes” or “follow swapping,” says Evan Asano, CEO and founder of influencer marketing agency Mediakix. In those cases, users will follow others to earn credit that can be used to get more followers for their own account.
However, if your profile currently has 500 followers, there’s a practical reason you probably don’t want to go for a 10,000-follower package: Instagram has a team of employees who work to detect fraudulent activity, including Like and Follow incentive programs. There’s a good chance your account could get flagged and suspended — or terminated completely. Not to mention that brands have begun cracking down on influencers with fake followers as well.
If you opt for a smaller-scale purchase — 100 followers for $2.97 or 500 followers for $6.99 — that risk becomes much lower. “There’s very little downside to buying followers,” Asano says. “It’s very hard to get flagged if you generally follow Instagram best practices. That is, you post on a regular basis and have engagement.”
The engagement factor is important if you’re buying followers in order to get noticed by brands. While big brands do care about how many followers an influencer has, the number of Likes and comments that someone is getting per post matters more.
“It won’t look good if you’re buying followers but they’re not engaging with your content,” Asano says. “Brands are getting more savvy. They’re looking at the engagement rate per post compared to your number of followers.”
The more followers you have, the higher your engagement per post needs to be in order for the ratio between the two to look legitimate. That said, buying Likes is just as easy as buying followers and is still relatively cheap; 10,000 will cost you around $70 on most sites. But comments come at a higher price. On Gramozo, 500 comments will cost you $129.95. Maybe that’s okay for your budget if you’re only doing it for one or two photos, but if you begin doing it for every post, plus buying Likes and followers, things start getting very pricey.
It’s even pricier to get the little blue check, also known as an Instagram verification badge. Those go for over $1,000. Twitter, meanwhile, has started cracking down on who gets badges and even those users who were already granted them.
There are risks to buying fake followers as well. Instagram may not suspend your account, but not all bots are harmless accounts increasing your follower count. Some are more malicious. A 2016 study conducted by Imperva, a data security company, found that 51.8% of all online traffic the previous year was from bots. Harmless bots constituted 22.9% of that total, while bots including the ones that carry viruses and attempt to steal people’s passwords accounted for 28.9%. If a bot account has followed you – especially if you didn’t purchase followers – you’re better off blocking it. Your online privacy is more important than your follower count.
Why Real Followers Make a Difference
When you want to buy Instagram followers, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, you should be certain that you’re purchasing real followers and not bot accounts. Scam services will sometimes provide bot and fake accounts to customers as an easy way to provide growth services without having to enlist real and active accounts. Why do real followers matter? For one thing, a bot account simply can’t interact with your content as a real person can; for another, your account is actually put at risk when the majority of your followers are fake accounts.
Bots vs. Humans
A human Instagrammer can feel emotion, share your content with friends and family, and provide valuable feedback on your page and your products. A bot account can do none of those things. Bots don’t have friends and family they can share your content with, and they certainly can’t provide valuable feedback on your page, products, or content. Bots are strictly a placeholder, boosting your Instagram followers count without actually boosting your engagement or credibility.
Bot services have been offered by shady businesses all over the internet since Instagram’s founding in 2010, and unfortunately are still offered today. Even with the incredible advancements in AI technology, bot accounts can’t provide the level of high-quality engagement and feedback that a real human user can. Until we teach robots to feel emotion, bot accounts will never be able to match the quality of a real human user.
We’ve talked about credibility several times already. Are you noticing a pattern? We’ve established that credibility is crucial to the success of businesses and influencers alike, and if your page is loaded with bots or fake accounts, your credibility is going to take a nosedive. Think about it: if a business’s Instagram account is populated almost entirely by bots, what makes that business’s content legitimate? Without real people to offer social proof to the content or products, the account is basically useless for marketing purposes.
Your credibility as an Instagrammer and a brand should be of the utmost importance. Without it, you’re not going to keep followers engaged or attract new followers and customers, and it’s going to be quite difficult to sell or promote anything. In an increasingly digitalized world, customers long for credibility more than ever. A genuine business is easy to differentiate from a shady one.
Instagram’s New Rules
While you can still buy Instagram followers from services that are entirely Instagram-compliant, it’s more difficult than ever to get away with using fake accounts. Instagram’s recent updates and changes to its terms of service have made it increasingly difficult for fake accounts and bots to exist. Instagram is focusing on purging these accounts to create a more streamlined and genuine platform for brands to operate on.
This means that using fake accounts can actually put your personal account at risk. You’ll risk flagging or penalties, up to and including account deletion. All of your hard work can be destroyed in just a few minutes when you pay for fake followers, so it’s vital that you choose only legitimate Instagram growth tools that offer real Instagram followers and likes. We’ve already discussed the difference in quality that having human followers makes, but now there’s the added risk of having your account deleted!
Engagement vs. Empty Follows
When someone follows your Instagram account, you expect them to engage with content. Likes, shares, comments, and even direct messages from followers are an important part of the brand-customer relationship. You want to hear feedback from your followers or customers, and you’ll also want to see them interact directly on posts to add more credibility to each content block.
Fake followers don’t interact. They don’t comment (or if they do, they’re generic computer-generated comments), share, like, or otherwise promote and discuss your content at all. After enough time with fake followers, you’ll start feeling empty, and it will feel like your content isn’t appreciated at all. Don’t opt for empty followers when you can have 100 percent real engagement from people who actually care about your content.
Potential Followers Know the Difference
Potential followers can spot an account with legitimate followers. If you’re attempting to appeal to a wider audience, you can pretty much guarantee that a page laden with fake accounts won’t do the job. Fake accounts are easy to spot; all you need to do is visit their personal page and you’ll see cookie-cutter posts or none at all. The generic comments or strictly-emoji interactions can also give them away. In other words, people will know if you’re using fake accounts to boost your numbers.
Don’t scare off potential followers with fake accounts! Every follower is a potential customer or promoter of your content. If they see that your only “credibility” is a slew of fake followers, they’re more likely to disengage and never return to your page.
It’s All About Value
When it comes to Instagram, it’s all about the value of the content and its followers. Valuable content simply performs better, as it speaks to the human experience and uses only genuine means to reach potential followers. The more valuable your content is, the more real people will be interested in it. If you use a legitimate service to buy Instagram followers, you won’t have to worry about bots or fake accounts, and your page will retain its value while growing exponentially.
Everything carries a value, including your Instagram account. Don’t jeopardize your value or your reputation. Keep things legitimate by choosing the right services and only buying real followers and likes. You’ll notice a difference right away, and your followers will too. The less time you spend building up your account, the more time you’ll have to focus on the value of your content.
Consistency Is Key
One of the key components of a successful social media account is consistency. This means uploading content on a regular basis and optimizing those uploads to coincide with Instagram’s highest traffic times. You want your posts to be viewed, and you want to post content frequently…but not too frequently! A few times per week is usually enough to keep followers and customers engaged without drowning them in promotional materials.
Consistency applies to the quality of your content as well. You don’t want your quality to be top-notch one month and drop off the next. Followers will likely spot the difference and wonder what happened, or else disengage with the page altogether when the quality of the content drops too low. Remember that you’ve got a reputation to maintain for the sake of your credibility and social proof, so be sure you’re consistently uploading high-quality relatable content.
Hard Selling Isn’t Helpful
Sales-oriented posts only serve to turn followers away from your content. People are tired of endless ads and sales pitches; they want relatable content. Customers expect to feel something for your brand before they invest money in it, which is why evoking emotion is so effective at inspiring action.
Avoid too much hard selling in your posts. A post with a story behind it is much more likely to sell the same products than a post that simply says “buy this product because…” Make your content relatable, avoid hard selling, and upload consistently for the best results.
You can have the best content possible, but if your pictures look like they were taken with the world’s first camera, you’re going to lose out on some followers, likes, and shares. If you plan on being a professional influencer or simply want your brand to succeed on the platform, you need to take high-quality photos. This may require that you purchase a good camera, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re planning to stay on the platform.
A good camera will also show off your products better. Minor attributes will show up in greater detail, and followers and potential customers will get a better idea of what your products look like. You don’t want newspaper-quality photos on Instagram, especially since your competition could be using high-definition photos. HD should always be your goal when you’re posting visual content to the web.
Instagram offers in-app editing tools so you can tailor your photos to look exactly the way you want them to. You won’t need to invest in expensive photo-editing software, although a touch of professional editing can work wonders. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you invest in these extras, but make no mistake, the level of quality your photos represent will reflect on both your brand and your products.