Why you shouldn't buy Instagram followers (& what you should do instead)
You may know your Instagram content is good, but imagine how much better it looks when it looks like 10,000 people see it too.
Whether you're trying to become a social media celebrity or simply spread your brand on Instagram, it can seem tempting to pay for your first few thousand followers.
There are numerous services that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for the price of a small Starbucks latte. But, if it was really that cheap and easy, wouldn't everyone do it?
So what's the catch? Is buying Instagram followers legal and safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment?
Here, we've covered all the questions you might have about buying Instagram followers to give you a better idea of how it actually works. We've also looked at the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself if it's a good move for your brand.
Can you buy Instagram followers?
Yes, you can buy Instagram followers. There are many cheap services that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for as little as $10 USD. But you're only buying for one number. Many of these followers are either bots or inactive accounts, which means they will never engage with your posts.
As a quick Google search will show, there are many cheap services that allow you to buy Instagram followers. About $6 will get you 500 followers, and about $10 will get you 1,000 followers.
However, the vast majority of these venal followers are either bots or inactive accounts.
When you buy Instagram followers, you're only paying for a number. Engagement is not guaranteed, nor is it likely.
In addition to buying followers directly, you can also pay for services to strategically follow other accounts on your behalf based on your preferences (location, hashtag usage, account type, and gender). Ideally, these 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 that these accounts will follow you back, this is a risky investment. Most accounts won't follow you, and even if they do, they probably won't be long-term, loyal, or active followers.
If your priority is simply to have a large number of followers, these services can definitely help you. If your number of organic followers is dropping, these services will even fill up your pool with other followers.
But remember the risks: Those followers will likely never like or comment on a post, and if you get caught with a ton of fake followers, you could ruin your credibility with your real audience.
Think of it this way: Would you continue to follow a post if you saw that most of their "loyal audience" were inactive posts or bots? My guess is no. It might seem deceptive and lead you to believe that the brand couldn't get authentic followers through good content alone.
Should you buy Instagram followers?
It's not a good idea to buy Instagram followers. The followers you buy are likely bots or inactive accounts, so they won't engage with your posts. This means your posts won't show up on discovery pages or in the news feeds of your real audience. It will also make it harder to measure metrics.
They buy fake Instagram followers.
The main reason that buying Instagram followers can prove to be a wasted investment is that the accounts you follow are often not genuine.
Fake followers are created either because they're managed by users whose only goal is to be followed in return, or because these accounts are sponsored by services that sell followers - as we discussed in the section above. And while these accounts can provide early engagement, they eventually become a drain on your Instagram account performance metrics (we'll get to that in a moment).
You will receive an early commitment that will gradually phase out.
Purchased Instagram followers also don't provide long-term value to your profile's content. The followers you buy may give you early Vies, Likes, and comments to gain them as followers, but the attention they give you now won't be there later - when you start reporting on your Instagram account's performance.
And how helpful are really 10,000 followers who 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 in your audience's news feeds, and it won't show up on exploration pages.
Having lots of followers might convince users to follow you organically, but that's no guarantee.
Users might notice that you don't show much engagement in your posts, which could discourage them from following you. If you have 10,000 followers but only four likes per post, it won't take long for people to realize something is up.
Without real followers engaging with your content, your posts are essentially hidden from everyone except your inauthentic audience. Plus, your fake followers won't share your post on any of their channels. And they won't discuss your brand with friends or family in real life because, well ... they don't exist in real life (no offense, bots).
Bought Instagram followers can skew your performance metrics.
It's virtually impossible to measure how well your audience is connecting with your brand if a high percentage of that audience isn't real. How are you going to measure posts that resonate well with your real audience if those bots and inactive accounts skew the ratio?
If you don't know how well your posts are performing or what your real audience thinks, you'll never convert your Instagram followers into real customers. And isn't that the point?
When you pay for Instagram followers, you're ultimately not paying for quality, real followers. You're paying for an empty number. And since Instagram's algorithm is largely tied to engagement and not followers, buying followers is not a long-term solution. In fact, it's not really a solution at all.
Take the time, energy and money you would have spent buying followers and instead focus on building real 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 the need for bribes.
Instagram identifies and cleans up fake followers
Recently, Instagram updated its terms of service to identify and remove inauthentic accounts from its platform. Instagram will remove any likes, follows, or comments from third-party apps that aim to artificially grow the audience of accounts. By purchasing followers, you are violating Instagram's community guidelines and it may trigger a reaction from Instagram moderators.
Instagram strives to maintain genuine interactions on its site while protecting real accounts and experiences. Fake or purchased activity violates this mission and can result in consequences, so it's better to grow your audience organically.
Alternatives to buying instagram followers
Instagram's new algorithm rewards engagement more than follower count, displaying content similar to what users have engaged with in the past. To encourage engagement, there are many different actions you can try on the platform to get in front of your ideal audience.
Using good Instagram marketing practices - whether you're building your personal brand or a corporate account - can help you better reach the nearly 800 million monthly Instagram users and build an authentic audience.
First, make your account public so users can see your profile and content. This way, you can organically grow your audience when your content shows up on users' explore pages, attracting and delighting your target audience.
Next, publish a variety of posts to your feed: You can post images, GIFs, videos, boomerangs, quizzes on your story, how-to guides, user-generated content, and more. Build trust and excitement with your followers by using high-quality photos, writing catchy captions, posting consistently, and overall maintaining a unique style to stand out from other posts. Research which hashtags are generating a lot of buzz and are aligned with your brand - hashtags can be a great way to reach a new audience if used correctly.
Depending on your brand personality, it can help to make your content funny or witty. Having an intimate knowledge of how your brand is perceived and what trends are developing around Instagram will help you choose what content to post and how to engage with your Instagram community.
Finally, take advantage of the many different channels on the platform, such as Instagram Live, IGTV, Instagram Stories, or Shopping on Instagram. There are so many different ways to engage with users, and driving engagement through these features can help you drive engagement and traffic organically and authentically.