You’re Only Hurting Yourself

Written by Allison Herrera

Many people use social media as a tool in terms of boosting a brand. But, many people become impatient, desperate or are simply uneducated on social media (which is totally okay – that’s why people hire us, the professionals on all things digital marketing)…and that results to purchasing fake followers, likes, comments and the usage of bots…AKA EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETER’S NIGHTMARE. When you partake in these unethical practices, you’re only hurting yourself…for MANY reasons. Today, I’m touching on only seven reasons inauthentic engagement (fake followers, bought likes/comments, bots) is *serial* killing your social media page.

Loss of Integrity & Reputation

Your company’s integrity and reputation should be more important than your “popularity” online. By purchasing more followers, you give off the impression that your brand is more mainstream than it actually is. But unless you’re Kylie Jenner, rising from 0 to 3,000 followers in a matter of days tends to make people suspicious…which reflects on your integrity and reputation.

Your audience is even becoming savvier in spotting what raises red flags on social media accounts, which includes fake followers, bought likes/comments and bots. There are even guides out online, which help users decipher what accounts are trustworthy. What it all simply boils down to is engagement.

The lack of engagement on an account is what reveals whether your account is authentic or not. Organically grown Instagram accounts tend to follow engagement patterns. Here are the average engagement rates for genuine Instagram accounts according to Markerly:

  • < 1,000 followers average about 8% engagement
  • 1,000 – 10,000 followers average 4% engagement
  • 10,000 – 100,000 followers average 2.4% engagement
  • 100,000 – 1 million followers average 1.8% engagement
  • > 1 million followers average 1.7% engagement

If your level of engagement is either significantly above or significantly below these numbers, people will question your brand’s worth, which is why you need to continuously engage with your audience, share quality posts and work on attaining genuine followers who resonate with your brand. You can also typically spot fake engagement by comparing the ratio of likes to comments on the photos somebody shares.

Just as if you have a significant number of followers, yet an incredibly low engagement; you can raise suspicion if you buy likes. Why? Because it can push your engagement statistics outside an acceptable range.

Genuine brands build their following organically. Although this takes time and much work, you will be happier in the long run by not losing credibility from taking shortcuts. If you are dishonest online, your followers will begin questioning whether or not you are also dishonest in other areas of your business.

Fake Followers = No Engagement

Like I said earlier, inauthentic accounts are detected simply by analyzing engagement. Engagement is key when running successful social media accounts and campaigns. We always tell our clients that followers and likes are always nice, but they don’t necessarily result in a sale…engagement is what leads to that money, honey! So, fake followers/likes are worthless if you’re looking for a return on investment.

Fake followers don’t actually engage with your account, and if you’re a brand, you want to influence your followers to buy a product or service. If your followers don’t engage with you, you aren’t influencing them in any way. Bought followers also don’t actually see anything you post, which lowers your engagement. This ultimately provides zero results when selling products or services to your target audience on social media.You want genuine followers who are actually interested in your brand and, at the very least, look at your posts.

Social media algorithms also thrive off of user engagement…but with fake followers, fake likes/comments and bots, your engagement rate is off, due to the inauthenticity and lack of strategy. Social media accounts analyze your posts through an overall engagement rate – the percent of people who…

  • Saw your post
  • Liked your post
  • Saved your post
  • Commented on your post
  • Sent your post to other followers
  • Clicked on your post/profile

The above, in turn, determines how many more followers see your posts from there. When you buy likes or comments, your content is now more unlikely to be seen, which hurts your overall reach. This now opens another can of worms…

Unreliable Data and Wasting Ad Money

When creating a marketing or communications campaign, we always look at who our targeted demographic is and peep at our audience. Unfortunately, if you engage in practices with fake followers, bought likes/comments and bots, your demographic data is now skewed, which results in unreliable marketing efforts. Paying for engagement on your social media page will then cause confusion in terms of proper strategy. These problems include…

  • Understanding who your consumers are
  • Developing long-term strategy
  • An inability to connect with authentic and engaged users
  • The capability to create impactful campaigns
  • A proper schedule in terms of when your audience is most active

Due to the reasons above, you end up wasting ad money with fake engagement. The purpose of an ad campaign is increasing the number of impressions and promoting engagement. But, if your page is comprised of fake followers, fake likes and fake comments, your ad money will promote your content by targeting that audience – FAKE spam accounts and FAKE uninterested accounts, who don’t even see your content…they just “like” it.

Why does that happen when running ad campaigns? Because ad campaigns go off of ENGAGAMENT in order to resonate with interested audiences. If your engagement is inauthentic, your ad will reach inauthentic accounts, which continues promoting inauthentic engagement. It’s a hamster wheel that’s a headache and a half to get off of. Because of these issues, paying for engagement on social media is not be the best return on investment.

There’s No Profit

You don’t earn money using fake followers, bought likes/comments and bots. Hasn’t this clicked by now? In fact, there’s a higher chance you will lose money due to…

  • People discrediting your brands integrity and reputation due to dishonesty online
  • Instagram can purge your “followers” and suspend inauthentic accounts

The purpose of having a social media page for your brand is to sell your product or service. By falsely boosting your numbers, you have no strategy to sell. Your data is unreliable, your ad campaign money is wasted, your credibility and reputation are tarnished, etc. None of your fake followers or bots will generate leads or follow your call to actions by clicking on your website. Inauthentic engagement doesn’t buy products, purchase services or promote your brand. If you have an uneducated audience, all your fake interactions yield to is making it seem like your brand is bigger than it actually is.

As I already touched on, automation ends up hurting your brand more than anything. Many people believe that if you have tons of followers, other brands or consumers want in with what you’re offering, but that is 110% false. Remember when I said engagement is everything? I wasn’t joking. People are now taking note when it comes to engagement rates; and, as I previously said, people are becoming savvier when determining what accounts are authentic and organically promoted. As social media marketing evolves, brands and consumers have access to more tools and knowledge that deciphers fake engagement from the real deal.

Unlike genuine followers who will purchase products or actively promote your brand and refer you to other customers, fake followers will do nothing of the sort. Instead, you’ll spend money on dormant accounts that won’t provide any return on investment. You’ll even end up spending more money than planned due to social media vigilance.

With Instagram on the lookout and actively removing fake followers/accounts, you set yourself up for failure, because you end up constantly buying them back to keep with appearances. By the time you know it, you’ve lost more money than intended. That money could have been better invested in more genuine marketing efforts; but hey, what do we know 😉

PR Nightmare

Bots are exactly what they are called…robots! So, they don’t receive social cues from a post’s context or a caption beneath a photo. Instead, they generate comments based on hashtags, which many people don’t know how to properly use.

Bots can sometimes provide a Public Relations nightmare through their fake and overly enthusiastic comments on behalf of your account. For example, no one wants to see “Nice!” under a Black Lives Matter post saying, “I can’t breathe”. So. Inappropriate.

Generic comments from bots on behalf of your account can sometimes land on the wrong post, may link to a distasteful account, provide no value in terms of connecting with potential clients and are anything but genuine. Don’t forget, your actions are visible online. So, that “million-dollar client” might be turned off from an inappropriate like or comment.

Organic engagement is key. Although bots are used to “boost engagement”, you you’re your engagement to be true to your brand, tasteful and to properly reflect your standards. You’re better off putting in the time instead of money, when it comes to authentic interactions. This way, you and your team can strategize what accounts to engage with, how to engage and use your authentic voice.

Unethical – Instagram Can Purge Your Followers & Suspend Your Account

Although there is no “Internet Police”, it is unethical to buy followers, likes or use Instagram bots, because you are ultimately lying to your audience. Buying fake followers and likes are also against Instagram’s Terms of Service. Instagram discourages buying followers and likes because it goes against why the app was created – to cultivate authentic connections. Instagram merely wants members to have an pleasant user-experience and encourages users to be present and upload posts/engage with other users in real time.

As a result, Instagram purges fake followers and can also suspend accounts involved in such practice…which then looks incredibly bad on your brand if it’s suspended due to dishonest practices. Perhaps Instagram will slap you on the wrist the first time they suspect you of engaging in unethical practices, but they won’t be so forgiving a second time. At least, if they catch you.

Instagram wants its members to have an enjoyable user experience. Therefore it puts quite some effort into finding and eradicating false accounts. Instagram makes regular purges, searching for fake accounts. They have considerable experience of finding fake accounts and know all the signs to look out for.

According to Instagram’s former Community Evangelist Jessica Zollman, Instagram has a team dedicated to identifying spam. Since 2014, Instagram purged millions of fake followers from many accounts on Instagram in order to generate more authenticity on the platform.

Bought Followers Bring Spam

When you buy fake engagement, you open your account up to spam posts. Some purchased followers are sometimes disguised as spam. This might affect your Instagram account, or any other accounts associated with it, like your email address. Any opportunity for spammers to spread their spam is fair game after you open the gate.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s use social media what it was intended for – to build genuine relationships and connections with your audience through engagement. Although purchasing followers, likes and comments may be seductive and the use of bots gives an allusion of saving you time, all this fake engagement does is hurt…you’re only hurting yourself. Think about the long run when working with social media. It’s always better to have a small, focused and active community than a bunch of fake followers that will never interact with or buy from you. So, remain genuine online, and don’t sell yourself short. If you have any questions about social media, email us today at We’d love to help you out!

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