A little while back, we encountered a situation with one of our clients where another “marketing company”, who was quite clearly running almost completely on spam followers, began tagging their Instagram page in a few posts a week (presumably to impress them somehow). Unbeknownst to them, we very acutely measure analytics and began observing. The only real results achieved were increases in obvious spam comments, an immediate decrease in our client’s real engagement rates (post deleting the spam comments) for several days following and our client’s inbox getting blown up with various porn bots trying to route us into obvious phishing situations. Over the next few weeks we continued to keep an eye on them and it became clear that they were most definitely attempting to enter our space. This was confirmed as our clients began reaching out to us with questions and to confirm there was no way they were leaving us for what obviously looked like bad news to them as well. Still, they did appear to be gaining some traction. They announced a couple of small, regional dealers and started running their pages much like they were running their own. A few weeks later, *poof*! They were gone. From what we can tell, they have yet to return. I’m sure you can imagine what kind of damage that could do to a client’s business. You have written some checks, divulged intimate details of the business, potentially severed previous working relationships and wound up with a black eye as a result. Either way, it’s something that every business owner wants to avoid.
Fake Followers = Spam.
First and foremost, buying followers is a super sketchy and “services” that provide that type of thing are basically never ethical. You have no idea what you’re buying, who you are buying it from and what the outcome will really be. You essentially hand over your money and your information (or worse your client’s money and information) without any kind of guarantee of what you are really getting yourself into. There are some “services” that just take your money and run. Other “services” sell your information to other spammers and bury your accounts in garbage. A lot of the time they will reach out to your legitimate followers and spam them too. Spam bots can also load your comments sections up with any variety of inappropriate things, which could most certainly discourage actual engagement. Worst case scenario however is that one of these companies takes over you or your clients’ accounts, and then best case scenario, holds it for ransom, or worse yet, goes totally spam crazy, causing you to lose followers or have your account removed by Instagram completely. Is it really worth the risk to you or your client’s reputation? Spoiler alert: It never is.
Fake Followers DO NOT Properly Engage with Your Account.
As stated above, when you buy followers, you are effectively sending out an open invitation to spammers and bots. Bots will never engage with your account or content in a real-life manner. If you’re lucky, you might get one that says “great post” or something equally as harmless. It usually doesn’t stay that way though. As bots get more sophisticated, they are able to like things, but that doesn’t change the fact that a fake like is completely meaningless – even worse if it increases your presence among more spam bots. Let’s do a little completely hypothetical math (as again, bots don’t interact to the same degree as real followers do):
Good account with 1,000 followers and a 15% engagement rate (real followers) = 150 real followers
Spam account with 10,000 followers and a 15% engagement rate (of which 98% are spam) = 30 real followers
With this said, chances are also good that those poor 30 real followers from the spam account are less happy overall as they are dealing with endless spambots as they interact. It’s not a good look for your brand. At the end of the day, the entire point of social media for business is to build a community and create positive awareness. You want real people that are actually interested in what you are doing. It’s better to have 100 engaged followers than 1,000 or even 10,000 bots. Trying to fake your way to the top is a sure-fire way to make certain that you and your clients get buried on the bottom.
The Instagram Cops Could Throw You in IG Jail.
Instagram knows people buy fake followers and continuously attempts to purge ill-gotten gains from those accounts. This means if you buy followers, you might as well flush your money down the toilet, because eventually the Instagram Police are going to wipe you clean. If you are a serious enough offender, they will either suspend your account, or (more likely) deactivate you completely. Is it really worth losing your account or your clients account in the process of what essentially amounts to lying? Think about the damage that would be done to your brand or your agency? It pays to do things the right way.
So, How Do I Spot an Instagram Account Populated with Fake Followers?
There are a couple of easy ways to spot an Instagram faker. The easiest way is to look at who’s interacting and how they interact with a page. The first warning flag is general engagement. Do they have 150,000 followers but only a few thousand likes (or less) per post? Be suspicious, then look at little deeper. Who are the “people” liking these posts? Are you investigating a car page with 1,000 post likes from 19-year-old booty models with a total of 8 pictures on their profiles that may or may not all be the same person? Is it a bunch of pictures of sneakers and sunglasses with captions in Chinese? Probably another warning flag. Next look at the comments. A disproportionately low number of comments is another cause for alarm, but that could also equate to uninspiring content (does this page’s content also look spammy?). Next, look who’s commenting. Aside from the general “Great shot!”, “Love it!” types of faker comments, we have found there’s usually a dead reliable person (or a very small handful of persons) leaving mostly pointless comments on EVERY SINGLE post. While you certainly want regular users, every post is abnormal under most professional circumstances, so it’s pretty easy to hypothesize this user is generally somehow directly involved with the management of the page. The last thing we usually look for, is types of content and posting frequency. If content generated looks like spam, it probably also acts that way, and thus attracts spam users. Also, account managers that are foolish enough to be open to purchasing followers also tend to ignore other general norms of social media or are not sophisticated enough to understand working within algorithms and usually WAY over or WAY under post. Be on the lookout for that too. Chances are, if something looks fishy, it probably is.
Grow Your Instagram Account the Right Way.
At the end of the day, the best way to grow your following will always be to give value, interact appropriately and post the highest quality content you can. You also want to be consistent with your posting and pay attention the habits of your users. It’s also important to use your hashtags wisely. With proper management, Instagram presents one of the highest ROI, greatest values in digital marketing, but it’s definitely best to do it ethically and correctly!
Motowerks Marketing offers comprehensive Social Media Consulting and Management exclusively for the Collector, Exotic and Specialty Automotive industries. CLICK HERE to learn more
Darin Roberge is CEO of Motorwerks Marketing and is a Marketing and Media Consultant in the Specialty Automotive and Live Events industries. Darin has been named a Business Trendsetter by Arizona Foothills Magazine, is a two-time nominee to Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list and is one of Sports Car Market Magazine’s 40 Under 40. Learn more about Darin at www.MotorwerksMarketing.com