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Is Instagram one of your preferred social networks? Why wouldn’t it be?
The photo-sharing platform had 107.2 million monthly active users in the US in 2019. This figure is expected to reach 120.3 million by 2023. Who wouldn’t want to reach that large of an audience?
Celebrities, politicians, and other public figures have huge followings on social media. But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
According to a report, many major American politicians have fake followers on Twitter.
Image via SparkToro
When they can fake it and buy Instagram followers, why can’t you?
Especially, when you know how challenging it is to earn followers organically on an ultra-competitive platform like Instagram.
A shortcut can be hard to resist.
But is buying Instagram followers worthwhile?
In this post, let’s take a closer look at why people buy followers on Instagram and what happens when they do.
Why Do People Buy Instagram Followers?
Everybody wants to be popular on social media.
Your content may be good but won’t it look better if there are 10K likes on it?
Whether you’re an influencer who wants more eyeballs on your content or an up-and-coming brand who wants more leads, vanity metrics like number of followers are important.
There are 150 million fake profiles on Instagram.
Some are inactive accounts that are being sold by third-party apps and some are AI-powered bots.
Influencers are especially susceptible to this problem. Since many brands weigh influencers on the basis of their follower count, influencers are resorting to shady tactics like buying Instagram followers and using engagement pods.
In fact, 56 influencers I interviewed for my blog claimed that buying followers is one of the biggest mistakes they made in their careers.
And, it is tarnishing the image of the influencer industry and costing brands dearly. Cybersecurity firm, Cheq, estimates that brands lost nearly $1.3 billion in 2019 by investing in influencers who had fake fans.
Businesses who leverage Instagram marketing are being fooled into paying to inject ads in Stories of “famous” people (who don’t have real followers). Buyers get the impression that vendors are trustworthy since they have numerous followers and Story views.
The vicious circle goes on.
What Happens When You Buy Instagram Followers?
If you’re still curious to know what happens when you buy Instagram followers, here goes:
You can buy Instagram followers from many sources, from third-party apps to interactive installations for amounts as low as $0.99 for 1000 followers!
Not many people know that they have to pay separately for engagement. Essentially, these 1000 followers are going to be dummies who won’t like, reshare, or comment on your posts.
In addition, you can hire services to strategically follow relevant accounts on your behalf. Ideally, these people will follow you back. Since there is no guarantee that this will happen, buying Instagram followers this way is a risky proposition.
For risk-free investment, people are hiring Instagram growth services to inflate their follower count. They claim to deliver “real” followers who will be paid a share in return for their engagement.
Image via Google
There are social media marketing agencies who claim to deliver new followers per day with a “mass Story viewing” technique. These followers are sponsored to follow you and have no interest in your content.
Image via Reddit
Even if you manage to receive engagement initially, it’s not going to benefit you in the long run.
If you have 10K fake Instagram followers but just 4-5 likes per post, it won’t take long for people to realize that something is not right.
Moreover, bot-generated comments are sometimes out of context, which can look fishy and dent your credibility. Having tons of followers can attract people who get swayed by vanity metrics, but you can’t expect quality engagement from such shallow relationships.
There is one more downside if you buy Instagram followers.
You won’t be able to gauge how well your content is actually performing since your engagement metrics will be distorted by fake numbers.
You won’t understand what kind of content your real audience wants to see. This means that once you’ve drained your funds, you won’t be able to get organic reach through content alone. That’s why buying Instagram followers is not a long-term solution.
Lastly, if you try to play Instagram’s algorithm with paid followers, you’re setting yourself for disappointment.
After their 2016 algorithm update, engagement has become critical in deciding if your post will show in the Explore pages or news feeds of your followers. The number of likes and comments on your posts has no bearing on the rank order of your account or posts.
How Is Instagram Penalizing Those Who Buy Instagram Followers?
In November 2018, Instagram announced that they will be cracking down on inauthentic activity on their platform to maintain sanctity and credibility of the platform.
They started removing likes, follows, and comments suspected to be from inauthentic accounts, such as those purchased from third-party apps.
By means of machine learning-enabled tools, Instagram identifies accounts that fall within this category and sends them an in-app alert notifying that their fake engagement has been spotted.
On their blog, the folks at Instagram said that many users with high follower counts or engagement rates are being “watched” by bots.
These targets can unknowingly reveal their login credentials to bots who hijack their accounts. That’s why Instagram advises such users to change their passwords.
Image via Instagram
Purging malpractices from the platform has been an ongoing effort by Instagram. In 2019, they deleted Story views that were from inauthentic accounts (for example, accounts with zero followers/posts).
Instagram started removing views after users reported that they are getting views and follow requests from popular people who are unknown or unrelated to them.
Image via Reddit
To safeguard your account from growth hackers, Instagram recommends that users should keep their accounts private or hide their Stories when they appear in the Viewers section.
Users are welcoming the algorithm update since it favors genuine content and protects their profiles from miscreants.
How Can You Earn Real Followers on Instagram?
By now, hopefully you understand that buying Instagram followers is a bad idea. But the bottomline is that businesses and influencers need followers to grow their networks and make sales.
So how can you crack the numbers game fairly?
Here are five proven strategies you can follow:
1. Use Hashtags Smartly
By using relevant hashtags in your Instagram content, you can reach people who are interested in your content and inclined to engage with it.
When you use a hashtag generator tool like HashTagsForLikes, you can see analytics and insights about the hashtags you’ve picked for your posts.
Image via HashTagsForLikes
If you’re not satisfied with the results, you can pick alternatives suggested by the tool. What one hashtag can do, two can do better. So, you can select more hashtags from the list of trending hashtags and improve the chances of gaining more genuine followers.
Image via HashTagsForLikes
2. Create a Compelling Instagram Bio and Profile
Your bio and profile are the first things that a prospective follower checks when they land on your page. You need to optimize your profile picture, use a memorable username, add your social handles and website, and write an interesting description.
By fine tuning these details, you can make a great first impression on prospects and win over followers.
3. Post and Interact Consistently
As Instagram gets more crowded, you need to be proactive to be noticed. Post quality content consistently and interact with your followers as well as other users.
You can create a content calendar to maintain posting frequency. Posting at optimal times is another great way of reaching more people.
4. Attract Traffic from Other Channels
If you’re active on other social platforms, you can redirect traffic from there to Instagram and earn followers in the process.
You just need to cross-promote your Instagram content on your other accounts. And add your Instagram handle to your website, emails, and social bios.
Since your existing followers on other accounts trust you already, earning followers this way is easier than winning the trust of unknown people.
Ready to Get Started?
Instagram offers a lot of opportunities to its users, ranging from increased brand awareness to improved lead generation.
Unfortunately, the stiff competition has resulted in some people using shoddy practices like buying Instagram followers. This is an unreliable and risky growth-hacking tactic.
There are many fair ways to beat the competition on social platforms. Post unique content consistently, build a community, use hashtags, and cross-promote your content, to name a few.
Do you have any questions about growing your Instagram account organically?