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Renee Ballard

To buy or not to buy followers?

Probably the first question I get asked when I meet with new clients is: how can I increase my follower numbers? Then there’s a tense silence while the whites of their eyes stare at me, searching for an easy answer, something like “oh there’s a toggle on Facebook in settings, just switch it to ‘one million likes’.” As much as I wish that were true, it’s not. Instead, I tell them about the tried and true (and sometimes boring) method to increase follower numbers; consistency and focus.

But there is another way. It’s not talked about in polite conversation and I don’t specialise in it. It’s called paid growth, or buying followers. And as much as buying followers flies in the face of everything I preach and practice about small business and social media, I concede there are times where it can be useful.

If your industry is in a fickle or fast-moving market, where coolness is important (fashion, beauty, etc), then having a big following may be enough to help tip more potential followers your way. It’s not all that ethical, it’s a little icky feeling, but sometimes business is a numbers game and you want those numbers fast.

There are agencies that specialise in it and whose cred varies from as dodgy as they come, to point blank mainstream. For a fee (it’s pretty cheap, around $50US for 1000 followers), they’ll employ a range of techniques to increase your numbers.

Some will use your account to like thousands of accounts to attract a follow in return. Or they’ll use your account to randomly comment on people’s posts to attract a follow in return. Or they have thousands of fake accounts that they’ll use to like your account with.

All the big player channels frown on this and it contravenes their terms and conditions. Partly because it smacks of spam and partly because they’d rather you pay them for a similar service.

Alas, aside from the sometimes-icky feeling that buying followers can bring, there is one other buyer-beware with this tactic… you might get sprung.

This happened in 2014 when Instagram deleted millions of fake accounts. Justin Bieber lost 3 million followers overnight and Rapper Ma$e, who had one million followers, lost all of them after the cull and the next day he deleted his account. In the case of Bieber, he may not have bought the fake followers, they may have just been bots that liked his accounts for exposure. In the case of Rapper Ma$e, I’d say he bought the lot!

When I hear about stories like that, I reel in horror, because who would want to wake up to that? It takes me straight back to what I love about social media, using the internet to connect with your tribe, around the world, organically.

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