It seems that today everyone wants to be the next famous Instagram influencer. Brands now commonly market their products on social media platforms by using influencers as their 'celebrity' ambassadors. This has lead a lot of Instagram influencers to make a quick buck just for promoting a product. But how many of these influencers are being genuine? Would you buy your way into the fame and fortune that comes with being an influencer?
Do the numbers really matter?
Unfortunately, yes. The number one way firms recognize success on social media is an increase in social following. Followers represent the number of people who see your content and the higher the number the bigger audience you are reaching through marketing efforts. Having a high following somehow creates a sense of trust in the audience that the account creates great content...content they NEED to see or they are left out.
To think of it simply:
Followers + High engagement= perceived popularity and brand deals
Why Buy Followers?
Organically gaining attention to individual profiles has become more and more difficult because social media platforms have become saturated with the number of users. Unfortunately, the numbers get bloggers noticed, not the content. The number of followers has become an indication of success, popularity, and importance.
Once a blogger has obtained a following, this is when the brand deals start rolling in. Free products, paid sponsorships, and promotional offers are given to influencers to display to their followers.
You can charge brands up to $2,700 USD per post according to Financial Times. Four to 20 million followers can charge up to as much as $17,500 USD for every sponsored post they upload. So buying followers can be perceived as a good investment for a long term return.
Sounds pretty good right?
Buying Followers is a Dirty Business
Ethics and moral codes are sacrificed the moment followers are purchased. The brand deals, paid sponsorships, and other perks from having a public following are not given because of the hard work put into the content. In fact, the content is no longer being shown to an audience that is going to engage with your posts, but is advertising to bots and spam accounts.
The business that has made a brand deal with these blog accounts are not reaching the audience they intended on. The money spent to have their product market was wasted and essentially they were scammed.
Buying Followers Actually Damages Brands
By buying followers brands are actually damaging their reputation. If people can recognize that you are purchasing your followers, the sense of trust they once had in you is broken. Influencer fraud ruins the authenticity of your following.
Not only does it make you look bad, but it skews with your numbers. A brands own marketing efforts will be damaged after purchasing followers. Bots that generate comments or engage with content are not actually going to purchase a product or service.
But no one can tell when followers are purchased, right?
5 Ways People Can Tell If Followers Have Been Purchased
1. Fake Instagram Followers Don’t Engage With Your Account
2. Sudden Spike in Followers or Likes
3. Bot Comments on Posts Do Not Make Sense or Are Inappropriate
4. Spam Comes with Bought Followers
5. Accounts That Follow You Have Very Few of Their Own Followers and No Postings
Instagram recognizes and purges fake followers so there is commonly a lot of fluctuation in followers of accounts with influencer fraud. Not only is it wrong morally and ethically, but buying followers is against Instagram Terms and Conditions and can get your account permanently suspended.
Markerly analyzed Instagram influencers and found that out of the the 2 million accounts analyzed this was the average engagement ratio:
- < 1,000 followers average about 8% engagement
- 1,000 – 10,000 followers average 4% engagement
- 10,000 – 100,000 followers average 2.4% engagement
- 100,000 – 1 million followers average 1.8% engagement
- > 1 million followers average 1.7% engagement
It is a big red flag to followers of a brand if your likes-to-followers ratio on any post seems too high or disproportionate. If a brand gets thousands of likes on its content, but not a single comment it is clear to the audience that the likes have been purchased.
So How Can a Brand Become a Successful Influencer without Fraud?
Focus on creating content for a specific audience and make that your niche. Whether it is marketing, account, beauty, fitness, make one topic your focus and run with it. Niche accounts will build an organic following when they provide value to their audience.
You have to pay to play. Market your brand by running ads on social media. Your brand can target specific audiences and ensure that the numbers will not be skewed when analyzed.
Show content that speaks for itself. If your profile looks really insightful and valuable to the viewers, the numbers tend to matter less. Gain the right audience by giving them content they did not know they needed until they realized they were not seeing it.
Focus on engaging with people's posts that you enjoy and supporting other accounts. By showing support you are likely to receive support back. Like, comment, and share your favorite content and focus on being thoughtful with your engagements.