Being an influencer is all the rage these days. Being your own boss, sharing your life through photos and stories, and collaborating with brands to make money—who wouldn’t want to do that? But, with over 1 billion accounts seemingly trying to accomplish the same goal, it could feel almost impossible to grow a large following organically.
How do so many influencers get so many followers? Do most influencers buy their followers?
Do most influencers buy their followers?
There are no statistics readily available on this, so we can’t say for sure. The platforms themselves would have this data, but they have not shared it publicly.
It also depends on the platform the influencer is using. For example, considering how much money “fake” followers are costing advertisers the practice appears most common on Instagram. But for other platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, or Twitter, the practice seems to be less common.
Most platforms have addressed this problem and put algorithms in place to detect and delete fake accounts, so the success factor of this approach is likely limited. Wiser influencers have probably learned that this isn’t an effective strategy.
If you’re purchasing thousands of followers upfront, you’re most likely buying fake accounts, or “bots.” These bots are cheap and can grow your following very quickly, but they are not real people. They won’t offer you much engagement. They’re mostly for show as a number on your profile, but that’s it.
The other option is to work with a seller who will build a list of targeted accounts based on your account and who would be interested in your content. With this list, the infuencer would then follow them, in hopes that they would in return follow the influencer. While this is more legitimate than purchasing followers in bulk, it’s not guaranteed that all those accounts will follow them back. These might be considered “bought” since you’re paying someone to research potential followers for you, however, you’re not paying those accounts directly to follow you.
Many smaller influencers will often purchase followers to inflate the appearance of their “influence.”
A high follower count is appealing to brands looking to collaborate with an influencer to market their products. And the larger the size of one’s audience, the more that these brands are willing to pay per post.
Instagram influencers, for example, are often inclined to fabricate the size of their following to work with more brands and to increase the payments for their posts. It’s also a much faster “solution” than trying to grow their page organically.
If an influencer has gained followers by working with a seller who offers targeted lists, it’s very difficult (if not almost impossible) to tell if they were bought.
But, if someone has bought followers (or bots) in bulk, there are a few tell-tale signs:
- Low engagement rates compared to follower count. If an account has thousands of followers but it is only getting a couple hundred likes and comments on their posts, that could be a red flag. Check out this article for industry standards and how to measure engagement rates.
- Generic and disingenuous comments on their posts, such as “nice,” “great pic”, or a string of random emojis. This also includes comments that have nothing to do with the topic of the post or the account.
- Sudden spikes in follower count. It is extremely unlikely that an account will gain 10,000 followers overnight, so if this is the case, they’re most likely purchased.
How can you spot fake “bot” accounts?
Fake followers (bots) are typically easy to spot and have similar characteristics:
- Few or no posts
- No profile image
- Following many accounts, but have very few followers themselves
- Random usernames
Not all influencers buy their followers, but there are many who will try to get brands to collaborate with them and make a quick buck. Some find success when they work with a seller to find targeted, real accounts. Those who purchase in bulk are not setting themselves up for success. These fake followers give the illusion of strong influence, but in the end, they’re not beneficial for anyone involved.
Would you like to meet some new people to talk to on a topic you find interesting?
Check out these Zoom mixer meetings to chat about your hobby or obsession.