There are several companies out there that offer services where you can buy “real” followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Other services sell “real” views on YouTube videos or plays on Sound Cloud. For nearly every social media site available, there are services that claim to boost your reach, increase your followers, and give you more credibility by increased views.
How They Work
Follower services are driven by bots. In other words, they are fake accounts generated by a system that is only programmed to follow, watch a video, or listen to a song. Often times, the followers will be from other countries, only speak in a foreign language, and the names/photos will be obviously fake. While these sites claim that what they are offering is completely legitimate, nearly every social media site strictly prohibits buying followers and it can result in the suspension of an account.
Why It Is a Bad Idea
There are a number of reasons why you don’t want to buy followers:
- On Facebook, your real fans won’t see your updates. If you haven’t noticed, Facebook is trying to get fan and business pages to pay for posts to be seen by all of their followers. When you create a status update or make a post, on the bottom right hand corner, there’s now an option that says “promote.” Clicking on it reveals the price you have to pay so that all of your followers will see that particular post (as opposed to the much smaller audience that actually sees it). Because Facebook will only show your post to a small percentage of your followers, a false increase in your audience dramatically lowers the chances that the people who actually care about what you have to say will be able to see it. Do you really want to pay $10, $20, $50 per Facebook update to make sure your fans see important announcements?
- It’s all about engagement. It’s easy to tell which pages have bot-generated followers as opposed to having real fans: there is hardly any interaction on their pages. Real fans will like, comment, and share content. Fake accounts just sit there and eventually get deleted by social media services since they are inactive or only generate spam. All social media rating systems (such as Klout.com) base their measurements on your engagement to determine your actual reach over the number of followers. If you want increased credibility, you need actual people, not spam accounts.
- You lose the relevance of all demographic information. One of the most valuable features of social media is the level of demographic information available: you can see who your audience, where they from, and how you can better appeal to them. The moment you throw in bought followers who aren’t real fans into the mix, you lose the relevance of this data. This will hurt your sponsorship proposals as well as most of your marketing efforts.
- Bought followers will never be fans. These are fake accounts, they will never lead to a sale or genuine support. They will never share your content with others. Just because a website advertises these as “real” followers doesn’t mean that they are actually real people who care about what you do.
- Buying followers will jeopardize your account. Is it worth losing your social media account simply to have a higher number of fans showing on your page? If you lose your page, you would have to start all over again from the very beginning and you will have lose all of your content/page history.
There are no shortcuts in building a strong audience. You have to create organic, contagious content that people would like to interact with. Although you have to build your audience one fan at a time, at least the interactions will develop long term, sustainable relationships. Those are the types of followers that are truly worth investing in.
Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking and author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com