The concept of buying followers on social media isn't exactly new.
Whether it involves a monetary transaction, or just a mutual “follow for follow” that isn't based on genuine interest, this kind of thing has been around since back when MySpace was still a thing.
One thing you'll hear occasionally from people in forums or on Reddit is that you should buy followers.
Yeah, it's against the rules, but some people swear by it.
But is it really worthwhile?
Are there genuine benefits to buying followers for your brand's Instagram account? Can it help you fast track your account's growth and engagement, or is it a waste of time and money?
As we said, you'll run into entrepreneurs who swear by bought followers on Instagram. But realistically, those followers aren't quality. You can end up with tons of bots, plus real users who honestly aren't that interested in your content.
That's the opposite of what you want.
Remember the “rule of 1,000.” 1,000 read, dedicated fans are worth a lot more than 1,000,000 disinterested followers.
In a recent post, Hootsuite talks about their own experiment with buying followers on Instagram.
Good businesses are working hard to build a robust Instagram presence, and buying your way to the top won’t do you any favors.
As an experiment, Hootsuite created a dummy account and bought Instagram followers to find out what would happen. Our results suggested there are two main issues with this tactic:
- Zero engagement. While we had reached over 1,000 followers in only a day, our posted content didn’t receive any likes or comments.
- A risky audience. When we looked at the audience we did have, they were either teenagers posting shirtless selfies or bots sharing inappropriate content. These aren’t exactly the types of accounts you want your business associated with.
As our guide to getting more Instagram followers says, instead of buying an audience, you need to create a thoughtful strategy, set smart goals, share great content, and engage your audience.
So how do you get followers? Start building a community. If you ignore this aspect of marketing on Instagram, you're going to have a tough time standing out amidst all the visual noise.
As with most other social media platforms, Instagram is not a “set it and forget it” type of deal. It’s important to build relationships and make meaningful connections.
In order to get the most out of the Instagram community:
Follow other relevant users. Find these through hashtag searches, the Discover page, or seeing who your followers are following and liking.
Take the time to respond to audience comments and questions. Marketing and branding are all about building relationships, so it makes sense to actually take part in conversations with your Instagram community.
Share user-generated content regularly. Celebrate your audience and repost their content as a way of showing appreciation. For more on sharing, check out our blog post How to Use User-Generated Content for Marketing.
Host offline events. While this might not be possible for everyone, hosting an in-person event can have huge benefits to building your community.
Ask (and answer) questions. Show your followers how important their opinions are by asking them questions and having them respond in your Instagram post comments. For example, if you’ve launched two new colors of sneakers, ask them which ones they prefer and which colors they’d like to see in the future. On the other hand, if you receive the same questions repeatedly, use an Instagram post to answer them thoughtfully.
For more tips about what not to do on Instagram, check out the full article over at Hootsuite.