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Why buying fake social media likes is a bad idea

In a world where ‘likes’ are counted like currency, it can be tempting for any start-up or small businesses to succumb to buying Facebook likes, Twitter followers and YouTube views. These days, it’s not unheard of for business owners to receive unsolicited emails that promise to snag you 500 more followers at a cheap, cheap price.

Why do people buy fake likes?

Anyone running a social media page knows how difficult it can be to organically create a fan following. People are extremely reluctant to press the LIKE button, unless they are truly influenced by the content served through a page, or they are personally related to the owner or employee.

The problem is that your follower count is only indicative of how many people pressed a button. High or low, it’s just a number with no direct relationship to your sales activity or profit and loss. More important is the number of people who engage with you – you want people who like your page to be true supporters and advocates.

How buying followers works

‘Fake follow’ suppliers commonly employ the following tactics:

  • Follower/Unfollower churn – common on Twitter

By following a large number of people each day, waiting for them to follow you, then unfollowing those who don’t follow back, it’s possible to artificially increase your followers very quickly. While Facebook shows little indication of minding, this is against Twitter’s terms and conditions. If Twitter thinks you are attempting follower/unfollower churn, they are likely to suspend your account.

  • Dummy Account Following – common on Facebook and Youtube

Paying a 3rd party can get you 100, 1000 or even 10,000 followers or likes. Suppliers keep a database of dummy accounts they can use to follow or like you on your chosen social network. Most of the time, they are completely inactive or ‘robot’ accounts, with names made up of random letters and numbers.

The risks of buying fake followers

  • Low Engagement

When you buy followers or fans, you are not getting people who are interested or willing to engage with you. You are merely buying numbers. After paying for followers/fans or engaging in aggressive follower churn, the large number of fake accounts represent a useless demographic in your ‘captive’ audience, and cannot be used reliably for reporting.

  • A Fake Purchasing Experiment

It took Knowlton Thomas nearly 4 years to amass just under 7,000 followers. He decided to take an experiment in purchasing fake Twitter followers. In 30 days, he increased his follower count 22 times over to 150,000. However, the following dropped dramatically in the next few months as Twitter bulk deleted the obviously fake accounts.

  • Spam Puppetry

Fake follower suppliers may abuse their access your social media account, using it as a puppet for advertising their own business. This, no doubt, will annoy your followers and damage your reputation – something far harder to recover from than a low follow count.

Purchased followers don’t care about your business and don’t value your carefully crafted messages – if they’re even real people to begin with. Some social networks use engagement-based algorithms to determine the relevance of your content, and thus the likelihood of your posts appearing in your fans’ feeds.

For example, when you buy likes on Facebook, the proportion of real people engaging with your content will shrink, conditioning Facebook’s algorithm to expect low performance from you, resulting in your content showing up less frequently – even to those who might engage.

  • So, how can you get more social media followers?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer for how to get more followers on social media – it all depends on the nature of your business, the personality of your audience, your content strategy, and the characteristics of your chosen platform. But there are some basic hygiene factors you can maintain across your accounts to ensure your efforts aren’t at least turning followers away:

  1. Share useful, interesting or fun content that people can relate to.
  2. Complete your bio with relevant and informative details.
  3. Ensure every post is accompanied by relevant and properly written metadata, eg. descriptions, locations, deadlines, ‘more info’ links, etc. – bad grammar, cryptic posts and inside jokes work only in a handful of circumstances.
  4. Use relevant, popular and appropriate hashtags to allow new users to stumble upon your posts.
  5. Post with integrity, giving credit where it’s due – while plagiarism could lead to a boycott, a positive reciprocated link from a popular account can help you reach new potential followers.
  6. Last but not least, maintain a real relationship outside social media to strengthen the bonds you have with your followers and fans.

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