One of the problems with starting out on a new platform is that your account begins with zero followers, which is never a good look. In order to get in the game quickly, it’s pretty tempting to buy followers, and there are plenty of sellers willing to help you out. Paige Cooper at Hootsuite (an app that I use every day) tried an experiment to discover what would happen when you buy Instagram followers, and this is what happened.
One of the big reasons why people buy Instagram followers is to get to the magic 10,000 follower mark. At that point viewers are able to “swipe up for more info” on Instagram Stories, which leads to more engagement. But if you’re a celebrity on the platform, you probably have a lot of meaningless followers thanks to the many bots that follow big name users like Taylor Swift or Arianna Grande to attract other users. Still, so few of us are in that category that buying followers becomes an attractive option for fast social authority on the platform (I’m not advocating this, by the way).
Instagram has been cracking down on sellers of fake followers so this isn’t as easy as it once was. Still, you can find dozens of companies that will gladly sell you as many followers as you want. There was even one physical vending machine in Finland where you could buy 1,000 likes for just 4 Euros and 500 followers for 3 Euros.
You can also purchase from vendors that will supply your followers all at once, or drip them out over time. All at once isn’t a good idea since Instagram now looks for large influxes of followers knowing that they’re probably purchased and not organic.
This Is What Happened
It took about an hour for the followers to roll in. After about 48 hours the 2 sets of 1,000 purchased followers were all in place. This follower count dropped by about 10% over the next week. But just because you now have followers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a good thing.
For one thing, bought followers don’t engage, so don’t expect to see any likes or comments. The other thing is that you can pretty much instantly tell when followers are fake, usually because there’s no profile picture, and their handle seems like it’s a cobbled together set of letters and numbers that a computer chose. Plus if you click through you find that they usually don’t have any followers and very few posts.
The Real Downside
Since it’s so easy to see through fake followers, it’s pretty easy for Instagram to determine that you paid for them. That’s against its terms of service and will get you an account suspension or even outright banning from the platform. Plus, if you have any aspirations of becoming an influencer, you can forget them since brands will see through your purchase as well and blacklist you.
So the moral of the story is it’s still best to get your followers the old fashioned way, by posting great content and then engaging. It’s slow but sure, and will keep you out of trouble with the Instagram police.