Why buying social followers is a bad idea

When many businesses start out using social media, they often focus on their number of Twitter followers, Facebook likes, etc. and desperately want to increase those numbers. That’s why “services” that offer hundreds of thousands of new “real” followers for $5 or $150 can look like a good idea. (Spoiler alert: They’re not.)

Increasing your number of followers – or reach – can be instrumental in making your social media marketing more effective.  But, having more followers only helps if those followers are real people. You want followers who will notice you in their stream and be interested in what you have to say and sell.

Unfortunately, the Twitter followers you can buy are not real. They’re kind of like the “valuable” video clicks you can get from Buyral, as advertised in this (parody) video.

Don’t forget about your business’s real goals.  Your primary goal is probably to sell more of your product or service. In addition, you may have sub-goals that you think will help you get there – like increasing your reach in social media.

Think of it this way: If you’re a real estate agent, one of your goals may be to get more people to show up to your open houses. But, would it make sense to put an ad on Craiglist and offer to pay random people to show up to the open house? I doubt it, because your real goal is to sell the house. What are the odds that one of those people would buy that particular house, or that they’re even in the market for a house?

Getting more followers in social media can help your business get more sales, but only if you are gaining real, qualified followers.

A someecard about fake Twitter followers - it says "Happy holidays to all my Twitter followers who aren't spam bots or fake accounts I purchased to seem popular."

What can buying followers get you?

  • A higher number on your profile. This can make your business look popular if people take a quick glance, sure.
  • Less money in your budget.
  • A lower conversion rate. Suddenly, you have a ton of new followers, but no better results.
  • Bad press and/or snarky tweets if someone notices you purchased followers. (It’s really not hard to tell.)
  • Possibly hacked, because some follower buying services ask for your password.
  • Possibly in trouble with Twitter or Facebook as they notice shenanigans on your account.
  • You could easily be back where you started, because Facebook and others likes to delete fake accounts.

In summary: At best, buying social media followers is a waste of money.

So, what are the alternatives? How can you get meaningful followers in social media?

  • Be interesting. When you post interesting things in your social media accounts, your real followers will notice and possibly retweet, share or +1 your content – thereby getting in front of more eyeballs that may choose to follow, like or circle you. Also, when someone is considering whether to follow or “like” your page, they will often look at your recent posts to see if they will want to see them in their stream.
  • Post regularly. Posting often keeps you on your followers’ radar, and will make it harder for people to forget about you. Also, many people will only see a small percentage of all your posts – either because they follow too many people, they don’t check their account very often, or because Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm only shows them a few posts from the pages they like. So you want to keep post often, so that all your real followers will at least see some of your posts.
  • Make the first move. On the social networks that you can follow people as a business page, go for it. They may notice and follow you back.
  • Be social. For example, view your stream and reply to interesting posts or tweets. Many people don’t want to follow companies that only push out marketing drivel day after day.
  • Let people know you use social media, and make it easy for people to follow you. Does your website have easy buttons or links to your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn pages? Do your email newsletters link to your social presences?
  • Facebook ads are a way to indirectly buy likes/fans. You can target your ads to the type of people you would like to see your ad. (Pro tip: Go for the type of people you think might want to buy your product or service.)
  • Promoted tweets are another indirect way to buy followers. They get your tweets seen by more (real) people that don’t already follow you, and if they like your tweet, they just might follow you.

So save your money, and possibly a few headaches: Don’t buy followers. You’ll get much more out of your social media efforts by putting your resources towards quality content and engaging with people.