Why You Shouldn’t Buy Instagram Followers (& What Experts Say to Do Instead)

You might know your Instagram content is good, but imagine how much better it will seem if it looks like 10,000 people agree.

Whether you’re trying to become a social media celebrity or simply looking to spread brand awareness on Instagram, it can be tempting to take shortcuts wherever you can in order to expand your audience, including ‘buying’ Instagram followers.

Can you buy Instagram followers?

Yes, you can buy Instagram followers. There are plenty of cheap services available that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for as little as $10. But you’re only paying for a number. Many of those followers are either bots or inactive accounts, which means they’ll never engage with your posts.

1,000 followers seem like a good deal for the price of a small Starbucks latte. But of course, if it really was that cheap and easy, everyone would be doing it. So what’s the catch? Is buying Instagram followers legal and safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment? And how much do these fake followers cost anyway?

How much do Instagram followers cost?

The cost for Instagram followers can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars depending on how many you plan to purchase. However, keep in mind that buying followers is against Instagram’s terms of service, so the price you pay could be more than monetary. Buying followers could cost you your Instagram account, at worst, and a decrease in engagement and reach, at best.

How to Buy Instagram Followers

The vast majority of purchasable followers are either bots or inactive accounts. Here’s how it works:

The Fake Follower Vendors

Buying fake followers on Instagram is much harder now than it was a few years ago. Why? Instagram has been cracking down on accounts that violate their terms of service. What used to be fairly above-board is now an enigma. In order to buy Instagram followers these days, you’ll need to know someone who can put you in contact with a vendor who will actually deliver the bots — I mean followers — they say they will (you’ll also want to choose someone that you trust with your credit card information).

But what happens once you’ve paid for your followers? Assuming the vendor is legitimate (as legitimate as can be for this type of service) you’ll wait anywhere from a few minutes to a few days for your followers to trickle in. The sellers roll out your followers over time so as not to alert Instagram that something fishy is going on. Once you have your brand new automated followers, don’t expect much. These followers won’t do anything for your engagement metrics.

When you buy Instagram followers, you’re paying for a number alone. Engagement is not guaranteed.

When you buy Instagram followers, you’re paying for a number alone. Engagement is not guaranteed, or even likely.

When you buy Instagram followers, you’re paying for a number alone. Engagement is not guaranteed, or even likely.

Instagram Bots

Instagram bots are everywhere — you’ve likely come across several of them today alone. There are companies out there that have automated the process of creating bots so well that they can then sell them as followers. In some cases, the bots may even assume the identity of a real person, using stolen images and names.

Depending on the service, these dummy accounts may even seem organic, running on automation to share and like content. Some can even be programmed to produce content. However, because they’re not real people, they will not have an organic-looking following-to-follower ratio. As a result, the engagement they do produce will have little impact.

Without real followers to engage with your content, your posts are essentially hidden from everyone except your inauthentic audience. Plus, your bot followers won’t discuss your brand in real life with friends or family, because, well … they don’t exist in real life (no offense, bots).

Inactive Accounts

However, not all fake followers are bots. Some companies sell followers with genuine accounts.

In this situation, the accounts are created either because they’re managed by users whose only goal is to get followed in return. And while these followers might show early engagement, they’ll ultimately become a drain on your Instagram account’s performance metrics when their accounts go dormant.

After all, if their account was created for the sole purpose of fulfilling sponsorship requests, the real person behind the account has little reason to dwell on the newsfeed, interact with content, or purchase the goods and services being advertised.

Without that interaction, your follower numbers are inflated with none of the value that organic followers would bring.

Demographic Accounts

In addition to buying followers directly, you can also pay services to strategically follow other accounts on your behalf based on your preferences (location, hashtag usage, account type, and gender). Ideally, those followed accounts will then follow you back.

With this option, your followers are more likely to be real people, but engagement is still unlikely. Since you can’t even guarantee these accounts will follow you back, it’s a risky investment. Most accounts won’t follow you back, and even if they do, they probably aren’t going to be long-term, loyal, or active followers.

Should you buy Instagram followers?

It’s not a good idea to buy Instagram followers. The purchased followers are likely bots or inactive accounts, so they won’t engage with your posts. This means your posts won’t show up on Explore Pages, or your real audience’s newsfeeds. It will also make it hard to measure metrics.

Simply put — you’ll get early engagement that tapers off over time.

Purchased Instagram followers also provide no long-term value to your profile’s content. The followers you buy might give you views, likes, and comments early into acquiring them as a follower, but the attention they throw you now won’t be there later — when you start reporting on how your Instagram account is performing.

And how helpful are 10,000 followers that don’t engage with you? Engagement is key to how Instagram’s algorithm displays posts to users. Without likes or comments, your post probably won’t show up on your audience’s newsfeeds, and it also won’t show up on any Explore Pages.

Fake followers could hurt your credibility.

Having a lot of followers could convince users to follow you organically, but it’s not a guarantee.

Remember the risks: these followers will probably never like or comment on a post, and if you’re caught with a ton of fake followers, that could ruin your credibility with your real audience.

Users might notice you don’t have a ton of engagement on your posts, which could deter them from following you. If you have 10,000 followers but only four likes per post, it won’t take people long to realize something is up.

Think of it this way: would you keep following an account if you saw that most of its “loyal audience” was made up of inactive accounts or bots? I’m guessing not. It could seem deceitful, and lead you to believe the brand couldn’t get authentic followers through good content alone.

Purchased Instagram followers can distort your performance metrics.

It’s practically impossible to measure how well your target audience is connecting with your brand if a high percentage of that audience isn’t real. How will you measure posts that do well with your real audience if those bots and inactive accounts skew the ratio?

If you don’t know how well your posts are doing or what your real audience thinks, you’ll never convert your Instagram followers into real customers. And isn’t that the point?

Ultimately, if you pay for Instagram followers, you aren’t paying for quality, real-life followers. You’re paying for a blank number. And since Instagram’s algorithm is largely tied to engagement, not followers, buying followers isn’t a long-term solution. In fact, it isn’t a solution at all.

Take the time, energy, and money that you would’ve dedicated to buying followers, and focus instead on building genuine relationships with a real audience. If your content is engaging and authentic, your loyal followers will spread the word and engage with your brand without needing any bribes.

Instagram identifies and purges fake followers.

Recently, Instagram has updated its terms of use to identify and remove inauthentic accounts from its platform. Instagram is also removing likes, follows, or comments from third-party apps that are designed to artificially grow accounts’ audiences. By buying followers, you violate Instagram’s community guidelines and it may trigger a reaction from Instagram’s moderators.

Instagram is looking to maintain genuine interactions on its site, protecting real accounts and experiences. Fake activity infringes upon this mission and might result in consequences, so it’s better to grow your audience organically.

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