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Episode 7 of the No Sugar Show is here and today we are talking about fake followers. Give the episode a listen, or read the full article below!

Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George Instagram?

There’s all this emphasis put on followers, growing your account to 1 zillion people, and you know, being an influencer.

But, what is that all about?

The Follower Appeal

Today, it’s easier than ever to start a business online. Becoming a business owner is attainable by pretty much anyone with a laptop and an internet connection. 

Because the barrier to entry is so low, there and more people taking the leap into entrepreneurship. For consumers, that means more choice… and more business research. After all, each consumer wants to find the best product or the best service out there and that means something different to everyone. 

Ratings, reviews, and testimonials are more important than ever before. This social proof lends credibility to business owners. It’s this same need for credibility that drives the desire for more and more followers. 

As a business owner, you want as many eyes on your content as possible. If your Instagram account is followed by hundreds of thousands, there’s a sense of credibility there. 

The more followers you have, the more conversions you’ll have… right?


Let’s get into what actually happens when you buy fake followers. 

Your Follower Count is Up, But Your Engagement Sucks

When it comes to Instagram, there’s one magic number I want you to remember and that is 1%. One percent is the bare minimum engagement you need to have your content show up in the feed or else the Instagram algorithm will think you’re a total spammer. 

Any accounts that you look at that have consistently less than a 1% engagement rate on their posts are not ideal followers or people to follow. This is actually one of the metrics you can look at on an account to determine if they’ve bought fake followers. 

When your follower count increases and your engagement consistently decreases, Instagram will no longer prioritize your content. That means the organic followers you’d already built up are not seeing what you put out there. 

Although some services will say that you’re buying “real followers,” that’s not the case. You are always buying some sort of fake follower even if they look “more real” than some of the other services. 

The longer you use bot-derived growth methods, the more damage you’re likely doing to your account.

You’re Kind of the Antithesis of What You’re Going For

Let’s think about all the reasons you wanted to increase your follower count in the first place. The social proof, the connection to your potential customers, a means to interact with more people, a way to provide better customer service, etc. 

If you’re buying fake followers, you’re sacrificing your own reputation as well as telling your existing fans that you care more about an obscure marketing metric than you do about providing them with the content that they want to see from you.

A fake following can actually tarnish your business. 

Is that a risk you’re willing to take?

Buying Fake Followers is an Instagram Violation 

On Instagram (and most social networks), buying followers is a direct violation of the Terms of Use. The goal of any social network is to have you grow your following organically or pay them directly using ads. Although you can’t buy Instagram followers like you can Facebook page likes, maybe that will be an option someday.

No social network wants to be flooded with spammy content. We’ve seen the public backlash from this repeatedly over the course of the past few years. Social networks like Instagram have been working hard to clean up fake followers and ban the use of bots. If spam content continues to be allowed on these platforms, we’d likely see a trend of user decline. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that Instagram (and every other social network) wants to give its users a high-quality experience. Any activity that puts that in jeopardy is at some point going to be banned by the platform in question.

Fake Engagement Sucks Too 

If it’s crossed your mind that maybe fake engagement might be the route to go, I’d advise you to think otherwise. Many of the items mentioned thus far also apply to fake engagement. Buying fake engagement is against Instagram’s terms of service, it’s easily recognizable by your followers, it tarnishes your reputation, and lowers your position in the algorithm.

With all the bot traffic sent to your profile, you’ll also end up with skewed marketing numbers. You won’t know which posts are actually doing well because your engagement is fake and you can’t tell what’s organic and what’s fake. 

If you retarget those who’ve engaged with your content with other posts, those numbers will also be off, thanks to the bots. 

What to Do if You’ve Bought Fake Followers 

If you’ve already bought fake followers, you have two different options.

1) You can delete all of your fake followers. There are a few ways to do this. The first and most time consuming would be to go back through your list and identify which followers are fake and start slowly unfollowing them. Much like Instagram doesn’t like you following too many people at once, they also don’t like you unfollowing too many people at once. To get rid of your fake followers, you’ll want to unfollow about 40 people per day. You can also look for an app like Captivate that will help you identify your fake followers and remove them.

2) You can keep your followers and focus on trying to improve your engagement rate. Please keep in mind, this isn’t a recommended option. The longer your engagement rates are down, the worse your account will look to the Instagram algorithm. Your follower quality also matters to the algorithm, so your engagement rates will continue to suffer until your followers improve. If you choose to go this route, focus on building up your organic following as quickly as possible while also removing your fake followers.

How Does One Grow Their Following Organically?

Growing your following starts with understanding your audience. Do you have an existing audience? If so, what types of content have they resonated with in the past? Look at your analytics to find out and produce content that’s similar to what’s worked before.

If you don’t have an audience yet, it’s your time to experiment. Play with different kinds of content and see what gets people following you and engaging with you. 

Although this is a short answer to what can be a much more strategic approach, I’ll save that for another time!

Until then!

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