Is Instagram one of your preferred social media marketing networks? Why wouldn’t it be?

The photo-sharing platform had 107.2 million monthly active Instagram account 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.

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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 social media platform like Instagram.

A social media marketing 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.

Shall we begin?

Disclosure: This content may contain a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).

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 social media content or an up-and-coming brand who wants more leads, vanity metrics like number of Instagram followers are important.

The result?

There are 150 million fake Instagram profiles.

Some are inactive Instagram 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 social media 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 Instagram 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 through buying followers.

Businesses who leverage Instagram marketing are being fooled into paying to inject ads in Stories of “famous” people (who don’t have real Instagram followers). Buyers get the impression that vendors are trustworthy since they have numerous Instagram followers and Story views.

The vicious circle goes on.

Want to check the credibility of any influencer? Use this Fake Follower Check by HypeAuditor to get a better idea of the genuineness of their Instagram followers and engagement.

Note: The above Fake Follower Checker is provided by HypeAuditor. The results are generated based on their computer vision machine-learning algorithm. Shane Barker does not guarantee the accuracy of these results. If you have questions regarding them, you can reach out to them directly.

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 Instagram followers!

Not many people know that they have to pay separately for engagement. Essentially, these 1000 Instagram followers are going to be dummies who won’t like, reshare, or comment on your posts. Since they are not high quality followers, they won't help your social media marketing efforts.

In addition, you can hire services to strategically follow relevant Instagram 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” Instagram followers who will be paid a share in return for their engagement.

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Image via Google

There are social media marketing agencies who claim to deliver new organic followers per day with a “mass Story viewing” technique. These followers are sponsored to follow you and are not high quality followers. So they have no interest in your social media content.

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Image via Reddit

Even if you manage to receive engagement initially from buying followers, it’s not going to benefit your social media marketing in the long run.

If you have 10K fake Instagram followers but just 4-5 Instagram likes per post, it won’t take long for people to realize that something is not right with your Instagram profile.

Moreover, bot-generated comments are sometimes out of context, which can look fishy and dent your credibility. Having tons of Instagram followers can attract people who get swayed by vanity metrics, but you can’t expect high quality followers and 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 social media content is actually performing since your engagement metrics will be distorted by fake numbers rather than organic followers and engagement.

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 Instagram 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 Instagram followers. The number of likes and comments on your posts has no bearing on the rank order of your Instagram profile 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 Instagram accounts, such as those purchased from third-party apps.

By means of machine learning-enabled tools, they identify Instagram profiles 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 Instagram profiles 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 social media accounts. That’s why Instagram advises such users to change their passwords.

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Image via Instagram

They further said that users who continue using third-party apps to buy Instagram followers will face consequences as they are violating the social media platform’s guidelines and terms of use.

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 Instagram 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.

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Image via Reddit

To safeguard your Instagram profile 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 organic followers, while protecting their social media 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 Instagram 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 to gain high quality followers:

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 Instagram profile.

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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 Instagram followers.

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Image via HashTagsForLikes

2. Create a Compelling Instagram Bio and Profile

Your Instagram profile and bio are the first things that a prospective follower checks when they land on your social media 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 Instagram 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 Instagram 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 your Instagram profile and earn Instagram 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 Instagram followers this way is easier than winning the trust of unknown people.


Q1. Is buying Instagram followers a safe social media marketing strategy?

A. No, it is never a good idea to buy Instagram followers. The platform is equipped with tools to identify such fake follower growth and can even block your account if you get caught. So, it’s always better to earn real Instagram followers rather than buying fake Instagram followers.

Q2. Where can I buy real Instagram followers?

A. You cannot buy real Instagram followers, even though there are many sites that may claim so. The only way to get real Instagram followers is to earn them by posting relevant content to your Instagram profile, not by buying followers.

Q3. How can you tell if someone has fake followers?

A. Accounts with fake followers usually have very low engagement rates, despite having a large number of followers. Their posts would not get as many Instagram likes, shares, and comments as an account with real followers.

However, some accounts use bots to increase engagement, but even they can be easily caught by looking at the type of comments. Their comments section would be filled with spam if they are using bots.

Q4. Do fake followers unfollow?

A. There are many accounts on Instagram that follow thousands of accounts just to get a follow back. These accounts usually unfollow after a few days.

If you are buying fake followers, then they may not unfollow you, but they are still dangerous as that can lead to Instagram blocking your account.

Q5. What are ghost followers on Instagram?

A. This is a term that is usually used for accounts that are on a platform but remain inactive. These accounts may follow you, but will never engage with your content.

Q6. Should I remove inactive followers?

A. If you have changed your niche, then it makes sense to remove your old, irrelevant followers as they do not benefit you in any way. You should also remove any fake, fraudulent, and bot accounts that may be following you.

Other than this, you don’t need to worry about inactive followers, as long as these are real accounts.

Q7. Are Instagram bots dangerous?

A. Yes, Instagram bots are an unethical way of increasing engagement rates and can be immediately blocked when caught. Any account using Instagram bots could also face penalties because of it.

Q8. How do you tell if a bot is following you on Instagram?

A. The best way to catch bots is by looking at comments, as bots often post spammy comments on the posts of accounts that they follow. Repeated, generic comments might also signal that an account is a bot account.

Q9. How can I increase my real Instagram followers?

A. You can increase your real Instagram followers by posting great content and using the right hashtags to make sure that it reaches a relevant audience. You should also optimize your Instagram profile to make it easy to find. Write a compelling bio, use a relevant profile pic, and provide details about your Instagram account.

If you want to see a quick improvement and have the budget for it, then you can also use Instagram ads to get more followers.

Q10. Why do I have so many ghost followers?

A. This could be because these accounts joined the platform, but left or did not find it interesting. So, their Instagram account is still there, but they are not active on the platform.

However, if your followers are active on the platform but not engaging specifically with your content, then they simply may not be interested. These people are not your target audience and you can choose to remove such ghost followers.

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 on how to grow your Instagram account organically?

Let me know in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help.