Aspiring creators and business owners who are starting their Instagram journey from scratch ask us continuously (more times than I can actually count!) if buying fake followers is a smart idea to boost the numbers on their follower count at the beginning.
You can imagine my face every time I get to hear this question. I always answer with a resounding: a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y NO. Why? Having worked with businesses and influencers that have fallen into the trap of purchasing fake followers, I can speak from actual experience on how damaging those bought followers can be to your whole online presence (not only your Instagram growth!), and how they make your hard work of creating extremely creative content and strategizing your target audience attraction almost entirely pointless.
What’s The Real Risk of Buying Fake Followers?
You might think that buying the “innocent” 1000 or 10 000 Instagram followers won’t be noticed by anyone, but believe me: that’s not the case. Even if you’re right, and nobody from your current audience notices, you should care about the… Instagram algorithm.
It WILL definitely notice the strange activity on your profile.
In fact, Instagram often penalizes users for buying fake followers and doing things that are against the platform’s guidelines. In case you wonder – yes, buying fake followers breaks Instagram’s terms of service, which you sign when creating a ‘Gram account. If you buy bots or fake followers, you’re running the real risk of your account getting suspended.
While buying fake followers might make your profile look “more reputable”, at least at first sight (that’s the “vindication” I hear most often), it can hurt your credibility as a person and a biz owner in the long run.
Look, one of the key benefits of using the platform is that you get to build genuine trust with your audience and make them want to engage with your posts, but when you buy fake followers, it will damage your engagement rate, resulting in fewer likes, saves, and shares. The total opposite of what you’d like to achieve!
As you can see, there are a lot of different reasons why you should never (everrrr) buy Instagram followers:
- Decreased engagement and low ER (engagement rate)
- You can lose your followers’ trust
- Inaccurate analytics
- Instagram can penalize you for breaking its terms of service
When you buy fake followers, you are only guaranteed one thing: the number of your followers will change in a short period of time.
That’s where the “benefits” definitely end.
The new number on your follower count won’t raise your engagement. And what does the Instagram algorithm reward?
I hope you already know it! Engagement. Genuine engagement.
The more users (your current followers and the new potential ones) engage with your content, the more likely your posts will be suggested to a wider audience. If you have a high followers number but very, very low engagement (and that’s inevitable when you buy fake followers), Instagram’s algorithm will quickly come to the conclusion that your posts aren’t really worth promoting because it looks like people don’t enjoy your content (as the bots and fake followers don’t like, save or share your posts) – and what we have here is a disaster: the platform will stop showing your content on the feeds of your REAL followers.
What a nightmare, right?
Is Instagram Punishing People For Buying Fake Followers?
I have discussed it before, but it needs to be stressed again.
Yes. Buying fake followers violates Instagram’s community guidelines – it’s against the rules.
I found an excerpt from Instagram’s Community Guidelines for you, so you can get the facts straight from Adam Mosseri (well, almost – it’s his team, I suppose!):
You can lose your reach, and your account can get seriously punished even overnight – I have heard many stories like this. While your profile may not get fully disabled, Instagram may restrict you from using certain cool and highly needed features and “kill your engagement,” – meaning your real followers won’t see your posts anymore.
How To Spot Creators Who Are Buying Followers?
The giant red flag’s always been a large follower number paired with extra low engagement: likes/comments numbers.
Not so long ago, it was pretty easy to tell if someone’s Instagram followers were bought and fake. Nowadays, it’s a bit more challenging, as many righteous creators struggle with extremely low engagement rates, and it can have NOTHING to do with buying fake followers. We can’t judge them too quickly! The Instagram algorithm changes have harmed almost every single Instagram creator and biz owner, no matter their audience size.
You have to dig a bit deeper and check the usernames of followers – if they seem suspicious, like empty profiles, with no posts, and usernames ending with many numbers, it can be a big red flag as well.
What To Do if You Have Bought Fake Followers in The Past?
As Jessie Reyez sings in one of her most trending songs – well, nobody’s saint. Or, as an old saying goes: Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. Well, I believe it applies to Instagram strategy as well.
We all make mistakes at some point of our lives. It doesn’t mean that you’re deserving of bad things and extremely low engagement happening to you and your Instagram profile. It takes a big woman (or man) to admit their mistakes.
If you’re guilty of buying fake followers in the past (shhh, I won’t tell anyone), now it’s all about accepting your reality, and doing your best to bring your engagement back to life. Attracting REAL followers who will genuinely care about what you have to say and offer.
The process of bringing your higher engagement BACK TO LIFE might seem overwhelming, but you can use the IQ Hashtags tool to help you out. I hope you already know that IQ Hashtags is an all-in-one Instagram analytics & hashtag research platform that can help you with everything from advanced hashtag research to creating an effective Instagram strategy. So it’s your time, huh?
I promise that the steady work of creating organic growth on Instagram will be worth it.
The Bottom Line
Buying followers is never a smart idea. Although, I know it can be extremely tempting – especially when every fashion enthusiast and business coach seems to have more followers than you, with thousands of followers blowing their ER through the roof, and you keep asking yourself: how am I supposed to compete?
But believe me, this saying is so true: “slow and steady wins the (‘Gram) race.”
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