Not long ago, I investigated how some brands were using fake followers on Twitter to “boost” their social media clout (or at least to untrained eye, seem like it). But what about the other forms of social media? And what about bloggers also using these techniques?
While it's no secret that these “fake following” tactics are easily available (you can buy hundreds of inactive, active, and “real” active Instagram followers all for under $100, or 1,000 Instagram ‘likes' for $25 ), it's still been a relatively hush-hush topic among bloggers.
It may seem enticing to simply buy a following rather than letting it organically grow over time, the reality is, it may actually hurt your social media in the long run.
The “Formula” For Getting On The Popular Page:
Instagram's Popular page is an element of it's “discovery” aspect — it's reserved for photos that have had a significant amount of recognition from the community, usually deciphered by the number of ‘likes' the photo has received by fellow users.
The formula for getting on the Popular page has been a much discussed one, but Instagram has been quiet about what exactly you need to get there. The general consensus, however, is an algorithm that has something to do with the number of ‘likes' you get within a certain amount of time (it's been estimated between 10 and 20 minutes), divided by the amount of followers you have. Therefore, some people may only need 50 ‘likes' to be on the Popular page, and others may need thousands.
Being on the Popular page is beneficial for one purpose: getting more organic followers from those browsing the Popular page.
How Is The Popular Page System Cheated?
One way is by buying more ‘likes' in a mass amount right after uploading a photo, but not buying more followers. That way photo ends up on the Popular page, which in turn usually means gaining organic followers due to the free advertisement.
While you may be able to boast that your photo made it to the Popular page, this system isn't sustainable unless you are buy more “likes” every time you upload.
If a brand were to take a deeper look into your social media reach, this might be what they would see:
With the two accounts above, both of which have been on the Popular page and belong to fashion bloggers, it seems as though both have been using spamming to get a boost in their accounts.
The second example shows how another fashion blogger's account is completely littered with spam comments.
If a brand was educated in the issue of manipulating a fake Instagram reach, they would probably find these clues a bit curious.
So, Why Is Buying Followers And ‘Likes' A Bad Idea?
1. According to a recent article on ReadWrite, “One of Instagram's most frequently-cited shortcomings also turns out to be helpful in curtailing spam. The service's lack of a Web app, combined with the fact that links left in comment threads don't work, mean that flooding Instagram with URLs – the heart of every spammy SEO campaign in history – is useless.”
2. Besides the fact that a smart brand might dig a little deeper into your account and find some discrepancies, you may not be able to deliver what you promise to them if your following is fake. Say, for example, a brand wants you to get 50 people to sign up for a contest you advertise on your Instagram. If you claim you have 20,000 followers, this seems very doable. But if you're following is mostly fake, you may not have people sign up, and therefore disappoint the brand.
3. It's not exactly cheap to buy all these followers, you may even end up losing money, especially since you it's likely have to repeatedly buy more over and over.
4. Original organic followers might take notice to your influx of spammers, and may even become disgruntled by your “unethical” practices.
5. Instagram, so far, has been slightly better at self-policing spammers (compared to other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook). However it seems like lately many more spam accounts are popping up even on small, organically created accounts. “We have a team that works really hard to identify spam through community flags, and we stop it as soon as it starts,” Instagram's Community Evangelist Jessica Zollman said in a thread on Quora — which means Instagram is paying attention. Furthermore, new features on recent updated versions of the app, such as flagging individual comments as spam, help the community as a whole fight spam. It wouldn't be surprising if some day there will be something similar to the “Fake Follower Check” that already exists for Twitter.
Furthermore, all of the above also applies to brands. Before signing on to do a project (especially if the project isn't paid) it may be to your benefit to do a once over of their social media growth to see who you are really reaching.
If you do get spam comments, but are building an authentic following, you may want to delete the spam so it doesn't look like there's any funny business going on. And if you're looking for tips to grow your Instagram organically, see all of our Instagram-related posts.