Having a good and successful online presence is all about appearing organic and authentic. When you buy followers (or fake likes), not only do you put out a fake persona, but the aftereffects can be extremely harmful to your account.
The social media revolution is in full effect—and it’s not stopping any time soon. Literally millions of people post billions of pieces of content a day, many determined to reach social media stardom and evolve into divine “influencers” by amassing likes, retweets, comments, shares, and views.
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The social sphere is thriving online more than ever before, with Facebook reporting over 2.6 BILLION total users and Instagram boasting over 1 billion monthly active profiles. But then begs the age-old proverb—not everything you see on the Internet is true!
With so many people and so much content out there, issues like fake news, fake likes and followers, and exploited information are rampant. Likewise, if we dig deeper, we find symptoms of another deceitful and dangerous epidemic concurrent across almost every major social platform—the affliction of Buying Fake Likes!
Instagram Bots (No, it’s not a video game)
Instagram’s bold claim of inhabiting almost a billion user accounts may just be a hoax, people argue, a figure propagated by underlying inflation. Many of these profiles are actually ‘bots’, or droves of fake profiles controlled by an anonymous puppeteer. According to a SocialMediaToday article that discusses the issue, “bot activity has increased on Instagram since the introduction of their feed algorithm, with people looking to boost or maintain their presence by giving themselves more likes – thus ensuring their content is more likely to be seen.” These bots and fake accounts have started to devaluate social media platforms, overpopulating and saturating the industry with white, sometimes destructive noise. Incredulous estimates from Facebook and Twitter revealed that up to 11% and 8.5% of total accounts and profiles on each respective platform are fake! The massive claim of nearly 1/7 of the world population having Facebook accounts results in millions of artificial users occupying (and polluting) cyberspace.
Well, how harmless could these bots really be? After all, it’s just an empty account taking up a nice slot in your follower’s list. This common misconception carries with it a slew of dangers and issues—starting with the ethical. “Buying fans is like paying people to be your friends. What do you think is going to happen when you’ll stop giving them money? They’ll go away to the next person that will give them money.
There are things you can’t buy, like friendship, trust or genuine interest in what you do. These things you have to earn,” warns Emeric Ernoult in an AdEspresso article detailing the Buy-A-Like curse which thousands of users unwittingly agree themselves into, signing their personal (or worse, business) profiles and social media accounts away to the whims and fancies of malware, “click farms” that are scattered across third world countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh and shady characters with unknown motives. And the implications of such endeavors are far worse than one would anticipate.
Buyer Beware: A Cursed Clout Contract
“Aside from the risk of being banned by the platform altogether, it’s actually not easy to remove fake likes once they’ve been added. Essentially, if you do decide to buy followers, that profile is forever tainted,” (AdEspresso). Essentially, you’re irreversibly hexing your social media profile, destroying much of the reputation (or lack thereof) you had before the blunder of attaining false likes. Credibility is a necessity and very powerful tool for any business on an online platform—users already have a hard time as it is passing through all the junk that exists on the Internet. If your company were to claim false accolades by making such a move
— if discovered—it could ruin the brand’s reputation altogether.
The average modern digital consumer is also much smarter than you and I might think. Users don’t get tricked by large numbers: a page with 1 million likes or followers but only 10 likes on a post won’t phase a viewer. They can see past the illusions that bought clout provides, practically follow the culprit’s trail and catch you in the act.
The social media companies themselves have even disavowed these practices, some such as Facebook even going as far as starting seek-and-destroy campaigns to eradicate fake profiles/user accounts, bots and spam on the staple online platform. “New advances in our pattern recognition technologies helped us halt many of the major exchanges that promote fake likes activity on Facebook originating from click farms, fake accounts, and malware. When we see suspicious patterns of likes coming from or to a specific account, we thoroughly investigate the situation in order to determine whether there is fraudulent activity taking place,” a Facebook spokesperson explained.
Besides trust and reputation being slandered by such unsavory activities, buying likes and followers ironically has the most negative effect on the very facets of your social media profiles and engagement that you intended to enhance. For starters, all the engagement one’s social media page generates over time is what Facebook’s algorithms consider when trying to understand your content and how to rank it to reach more fans. Having thousands of inactive, suspicious profiles as followers raise red flags to the algorithms, substantially reduces organic reach and therefore severely limits engagement (the KEY in social media marketing!)
A Fake-Follower CATastrophe!
To prove the point even further, the team at AdEspresso decided to embark on a social media experiment by setting up three nearly-identical fan pages for the topic “Cats”. A universally appealing subject, broad in the category and able to generate solid, measurable engagement even with low numbers. The first page, “Meow Cats”, was managed routinely and boosted with Facebook Ads. The second, “Meeow Cats”, garnered likes by purchasing likes through ‘Seller 1’. The third, “Meeeow Cats”, got its share of likes through “Seller 2”, albeit delivered very late.
The results were shocking: over the course of the 2-year campaign, “Meow Cats” gained 68 likes while the other two pages netted a loss of 59 and 103 likes respectively. While the overall cost of the Facebook Ads promotion was more ($65.76 versus $11 and $42), the investment was worthwhile with almost 37,000 in post reach, 66,000+ in impressions, and at least a comment, 26 likes and 2 shares on every single post, all at an action cost of $0.01! The sellout pages failed to even pass 5,000 in total reach and maxed out at 10,309 and 8,547 for impressions. They received virtually no comments, half alike at best and a combined maximum of .01 shares per post. Their cost per action was over $0.50, and while “Meow Cats” surpassed 4,000 in engagement altogether, “Meeow Cats” dwindled at 20 and “Meeeow” not far ahead at 78. Results that are laughable considering the frenzy behind buying social influence and the untold, horrifying consequences that speak for themselves.
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The Fork in the Road
So what’s the solution if not to buy your way to social media recognition? With social media giants like Facebook proactively targeting and shutting down organizations that perpetuate this false form of influence and even sending Cease and Desist letters to these groups, the answer isn’t by buying bots. Rather, utilizing native strengths of the platform, such as the ability to tune in, listen and learn about your audience through the very organic interactions they provide gives businesses invaluable tools. “When you check your analytics on any social platform, you can access insights or varying capacity on this front – but if all your followers are fake, that data is useless,” (SocialMediaToday).
Perform promotional campaigns and mass advertising through the safe yet powerful avenues that the social networks built within their platforms—Facebook Ads Manager, Instagram Promotions, and so on. These tools were designed with you as a business owner and advertiser in mind, while delivering outstanding results (as shown in the “Meow Cats” experiment) leveraging the power of paid advertising and not compromising ethical standards or safety, leaving your reputation as a brand untouched. SocialMediaToday sums it up perfectly: “Ultimately, buying fake likes and profiles is not a sustainable practice – it might get you an immediate, quick result, but the long-term damage, and potential risk, is not worth it.”
So, after all that, are you buying fake likes?
Invest in your time, money and future wisely and choose the right path for you and your precious ventures. Refuse to purchase fake likes and profiles —it will only leave you and your social status in shambles. Discover the amazing power of organic marketing, true customer appreciation and ethical paid advertising and you can achieve true success!