Instagram Followers: How Buying Your Way to Fame Turns Your Account Into a Ghost Town
Poppy Malise | Jul 11, 2021
As you debate the idea of dabbling in the dark arts...you think to yourself, should I buy followers on Instagram?

What's the harm? Lots of people do it.

You’ve gained a nice little organic instagram following yourself already, why not pad the margins a bit and expand your influence? After all, it's not like anyone would really know they weren’t real anyway.

So you go online and search: buy real Instagram followers.

Holy toledo! It seems unreal, for as little as $100 you can buy thousands of followers! Everybody knows followers + likes = big $$$. You waffle back and forth for a while, then you decide to go through with it.

A few weeks later, everyone in your network is impressed with the way your follower count is racking up. You watch as your influence grows and accept high fives from your friends all week. You can’t wait until the money starts rolling in. But after several months go by, you start to wonder… what gives? Nothing is happening. No one is buying my products or clicking my links. I'm not getting sponsorships and now I’m even getting less likes than before.

Why are the new followers only making things worse?

Well, it's because you fell into a well-laid trap. Most of those followers were bots or people who are unlikely to interact with your content. Instagram doesn’t like to share content that isn’t engaging your own followers well in the first place.

This scenario is all too common with no great solution for fixing it. Only time and a lot of work can restore the purity of your account.

Then, should you buy Instagram followers?

Unless you are a smooth criminal, we strongly advise against it. And if you are a smooth criminal, we hope that you come and join our side, there's plenty of legal ways to build your audience and earn some powerful influence.

TL;DR?

Reading not your thing? We got you covered.
Followers mean diddly squat compared to engagement. IG now places substantially more priority on social engagementthan follower count.
The followers you buy are ghost followers, meaning inactive accounts. Ghost followers, also known as fake followers, canpollute your audience, lower your engagement rate, obscure your analytics, damage your reputation, slow organic growth, and ultimately, kill your ROI.
Buying Instagram fake followers (people or bots) is against Instagram’s community guidelines and punishable via a temporarily locked account or permanent ban. So is heavy automation such as follow/unfollow apps.
Don’t rush it. Patience, consistency, and vigilance are all key to a successful social media strategy. A small engaged audience of 500 is more valuable than a fake following with 30,000 because you can actually convert traffic, attract sponsors, and get feedback from your audience to better optimize your content.
Establishing a presence on Instagram organically is no easy feat, but we’ve cracked the code for crafting exciting content that naturally builds a loyal following. We are LIVID, a creative social media agency. Our service powers brands just like yours with a smart community-building strategy and engaging content. We'd love to explore and share what opportunities are available for your brand to get in front of more audiences on Instagram and other social platforms.

Let’s talk.

The Instagram Black Market: When the Bough Breaks

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
–Rock-a-bye Baby

This nursery rhyme passage sums up the consequences of buying Instagram followers fairly well.

If you aren't familiar, it basically means: Once you are past the point of no return there’s nothing you can do to stop an unfortunate situation from occurring. After the party is over, you will have to deal with the drawbacks.

Now that you are good and scared, let us assure you, you aren’t going to jail if you should happen to buy Instagram followers, a SWAT team isn’t going to bust down your bedroom door in the middle of the night and arrest you. And we certainly don’t think you’re a bad person if you happened to fall into this devious trap.
Ghost Followers: Are Bots Blocking Your Engagement?
Ghost followers mean inactive Instagram followers (fake followers) that don’t comment, like, or share any of your content. Ghost followers don’t care about you or your business. If you want to build an audience for your business, you’re probably hoping people will buy your products or services. But bots don’t have any money to spend nor fingers they can use to click the ‘Add to Cart’ on your website.

Many times, brands end up buying “real” Instagram followers by accident. If you realize you have a disproportionately high ratio of ghost followers to real followers, there has to be a reason. More often than not, it’s because you were defrauded by an unscrupulous social media marketer.

These days, follower count means nothing compared to engagement. It now places more priority on the account relationships, interests, frequency of use, and session time than it does on follower count. The Instagram algorithm in 2021 became much smarter.

Take a look at Instagram’s criteria...
Information about the person who posted. This helps Instagram get a sense of how interesting the person might be to you and how many times people have interacted with that user in the past few weeks.
Your activity. This helps Instagram understand what you might be interested in and includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked.
Your history of interacting with someone. This gives Instagram a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.
Fake Followers in The Flesh: What About the Real People?
Not all Instagram ghost followers are bots, you can buy genuine accounts run by real people, paid to follow your account, and engage with specific posts. These are low-paid workers who are part of a click fraud scamto raise the engagement rate.

Unlike bots, these fake followers will interact with your posts and stories. But just like bots, these kinds of followers are more trouble than they are worth.

This strategy is unlikely to give you a return on your ROI. You may have a high follower count, likes, and comments on your posts, but little if any actual traction that can add value to your business.
Paying for Follow/Unfollow Strategy
There are paid services or apps that use automation to make it appear like people are interested in your brand. This is an outdated strategy but some marketers will attempt to sell this service to your business.

These tools use data like location, hashtag usage, gender, and account type, to find accounts relevant to your niche. Most accounts won't follow you back, and if they do they probably won't become active long-term followers. Oftentimes people will simply follow you back out of social media etiquette and ignore your posts.

If you’re unlucky, Instagram might detect this suspicious activity and temporarily lock you out of your account.

How to Find and Remove Instagram Ghost Followers

Instagram’s latest algorithms can spot suspicious activity quickly- If youdon’t get rid of them ASAP you could be flagged.

And if you are using an app to purge ghost followers, you also run the risk of getting flagged because this type of automation violates Instagram's community guidelines.

The best way to remove ghost followers is the old-fashioned way, manually. Go to the fake follower account, block it, then repeat. If you have thousands of ghost followers, you may want to consider starting over with a new account.

Why Buying Instagram Followers Ruins Your Instagram Game

First off, it taints your audience and it ain't a good idea.

Seriously though, those favorable numbers are just vanity metrics that don’t reflect reality.

Despite the numbers, they are still ghost followers, meaning they are dead weight. Which in turn, means your reach won't improve. Moreover, getting rid of them can take a lot of effort and it might even be preferable for you to just start from scratch with a new account.
It Sends All the Wrong Signals
The algorithm is your friend... unless you are also friends with a ton of ghost followers. Buying Instagram followers makes the algorithm work against you, negatively affecting your organic reach.

The algorithm predicts the kinds of posts users want to see based on their past engagement (likes, shares, comments, saves) with you or any other creators. The more engaging your content is, the better chance you have at earning further Reach and getting conversions.

Posts that don't have many likes or comments won't have as much reach because the algorithm deems your content less relevant to users' interests because no one is actually engaging or sharing your content.

This can create a vicious cycle: As your engagement rate drops Instagram will have increasingly less reason to share your content with other people. This also affects paid ad campaign performance as well, which could be quite costly.

As for marketing, accurate, high-quality data is paramount. Inaccurate data can obscure your analytics and make it hard to pinpoint who your audience is to better connect with them. Without insight from demographic data like age range, gender, location, and native language, which will become skewed as a result of buying followers, your organic and promotional efforts will be mostly guesswork.

Is Buying Fake Followers Really That Big of a Deal?

Even though you may think it’s harmless, it could end up damaging your reputation as well as ruin relationships with stakeholders and sponsors.

According to Instagram’s community guidelines, participating in engagement pods, buying likes and comments, and using heavy automation violates Instagram's rules. In some cases, having a large number of ghost followers can get you temporarily locked out of your account or blocked for good.
Buy Too Many Followers and You Might Have to Abandon Ship!
Consider the following hypothetical situation. An influencer in the education and entertainment space hires a marketing consultant because she’s unhappy with her social media presence. Even though she had 30,000 followers, plenty of affiliate links, and products for sale, she hadn’t made one cent off of her channel.

Aside from a massive number of ghost followers, the first thing social media consultant noticed was that her content was inconsistent because she couldn’t pinpoint her audience. Rather than try and manually remove each ghost follower (which is exceptionally painstaking), she wanted to start fresh.

A few months later her new account, which only had around 500 followers at the time, had already made over $400 from Paetron support and landed several sponsorships. Six months later she was seeing a consistent and steady stream of new followers who were excited to interact and support her work.

The Consequences of Buying Instagram Followers

So, should you buy Instagram followers? The answer is NO.

Without engagement from real followers, there won’t be a buzz around your brand from word of mouth because no one knows about it. No one will see your post except your fake Instagram followers.

Additionally, having too many Instagram ghost followers is a sure-fire way to turn away high-value prospects. Smart users and brands are keenly aware of how social media works and they look at the data for answers. If an influencer’s or brand's numbers seem off, they will investigate the reasons why.

Even though it seems harmless, buying fake followers could end up damaging your reputation and ruin relationships with stakeholders and sponsors. You’d be better off buying a bunch of lotto tickets instead, even if you lose at least you’d still get that brief thrill.

A Better Way to Grow on Instagram

Next time you ask yourself, "Should I buy followers on Instagram?," think of your brand like a budding Moringa tree. It's just a sapling now but with proper vigilance and care, in a few years, it will have strong roots and steady growth.

After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. Even something as seemingly simple as a treehouse can take 6 months to a year to finish.

If you are struggling to attract followers, don't worry, that just means there's more room for growth. Our creative social media company has the expertise necessary to supercharge your brand and power steady growth from the right audience who wants what you have to offer.

Avoid the pitfalls of applying sporadic growth tactics and partner with a team that has developed killer, proven strategies for driving consistent Instagram engagement and building brands that stand the test of time.

Need we say more? Let's do it!
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