Building an engaged audience 👥 on Instagram is a challenging task (we experienced it ourselves!). It takes a lot of creativity, skill and time. It's very tempting to take shortcuts that promise high number of followers in a record-breaking span of time. One such shortcut is outright buying Instagram followers from one of many farms of Instagram followers. Is it worth it, though?
First, lets see how it works in practice. When you decide to buy followers from a service ("followers farm"), you usually pay a one-off fee per 1k followers. A few hours after such purchase, you get a lot of new Instagram followers as ordered. In a vacuum, everything seems fine. However, issues surface quite quickly and have a lot of long-term implications.
When buying followers goes wrong
Taking a closer look at the newly-bought followers reveals some patterns. They usually:
- Have a high number of profiles they follow (usually well above 1k) and a very small number of followers,
- Have little to no of their own content (posts, reels etc.),
- Lack mentions from other profiles,
- Lack a genuine profile photo, bio etc.,
What's worse, those followers might engage with your profile during the first day by liking some posts, commenting and following your profile. However, it's all superficial and will drop to zero after the first day or so. It makes sense, since those followers are most likely fake or inactive Instagram accounts, used only for the sheer purpose of bumping up your followers count.
The impact of fake followers on engagement
Bought fake followers won't genuinely like your content, share their thoughts with you via comments or mention your brand offline. Engagement is the king of Instagram metrics and the impact of fake followers is tremendous. Imagine having 5k followers with 10% engagement rate (likes, comments, shares, saves etc.) and buying +5k followers that, after the first day, don't interact with your content. The effect? Your engagement rate falls steeply to just 5% because of the high number of passive (fake) followers. In other words, your engagement rate gets diluted substantially and engagement is one of the key metrics brands, advertisers and marketing agencies pay attention to when picking influencers for collaboration. The engagement rate is super easy to check by using specialized tools (e.g. SocialBlade), so don't count on a laziness of marketing agencies.
Engagement aside, the number of followers is usually a very good indication that an Instagram profile got a boost of fake followers. Using SocialBlade, anyone can spot on a followers chart a staircase-like spike in followers and draw conclusions from there. So it's not a matter of "if", but "when" someone will notice that an Instagram account was boosted.
To put it simply, brands won't work with you if your audience engagement is very low, even if you boast a large number of followers.
Other risks that come with buying followers
Unfortunately, that's the negative impact of fake followers on engagement is not the only issue. The segment of businesses that are literally follower farms is riddled with scams. You can find a lot of angry reviews of scam victims on sites like TrustPilot (for example check SimplyGram's reviews). Even sites that claim they "sell" genuine followers are usually not legit in their claims.
Another risk is comes in the form of automatic moderation by Instagram. Since 2018, Instagram has been fighting the war of banning and removing fake accounts, along with their likes and comments. This means that even if you buy followers, it will be a short-lived victory. Instagram will remove most of them and with them a huge chunk of your followers and content interactions.
Last, but not least, buying followers is against Instagram's Community Guidelines and can get your account restricted for an arbitrary period of time.
Should you buy Instagram followers?
Buying followers in bulk 🛍️ might seem like a good idea at first, but has dire consequences. Your Instagram audience engagement rate, and other performance metrics, will drop sharply, which advertisers and brands will notice and take into consideration. Ultimately, buying followers is risky and a waste of money that can be better spent on much more reliable ways of promoting your brand on Instagram.
I've bought followers in the past. What now?
It's best to go through your list of your Instagram followers and remove/block the profiles you suspect of being fake/bot or inactive. The usual indicators of such profiles are high number of IGs they follow (usually over 1k), missing profile photo and/or description.
Normally, removing such fake and inactive profiles manually would take a lot of time. Fortunately with tools like Followyst you can do this in just a few taps.
Alternatives to buying followers
One alternative to buying followers, a supplement to regularly posting content and interacting with your audience on Instagram, is using a marketing automation tool like Followyst. Followyst promotes your brand on Instagram and gets you a steady steam real, human followers who actually are interested in what you have to show and say. It's by far the best and safest option that can become one of the tools in your Instagram tool belt.