Why Successful Influencers Don't Buy Their Followers

Updated: Jun 30

If you want to check out the quick video version of this post, tune into the IGTV episode from @mkwcreative.co and me HERE

Successful influencers DON’T buy their followers. I know this is an automatic eye roll for anyone who has organically grown their following from the ground up, but it's something that constantly comes up. You cannot cheat real influence. And when you think about it, attempting to do so is...fraud. For those just starting out in the influencer industry, I'm going to open this post with one piece of advice: don't do it.

You Can’t Fake It Til You Make It- And You Shouldn’t

For those who are vets in the industry, you probably know just how valuable an organically acquired following is versus one that was paid for. You’ve heard this before, I’m sure, but again for the people in the back: great influence comes with great responsibility. In the instance of this post, we’re talking about being honest and integral about the quality of the followers you have. First of all, they have to be real humans. And secondly, they should be earned, not bought.

I can’t believe I have to clarify this, but here goes. It’s an actual crime to buy followers and entice a brand into paying you for your influence on those fake followers, leaving them with no return on their investment. It’s one thing for a campaign not to stick or for a brand to not appeal to an audience due to a bad fit for the audience. But it’s entirely different to go into a collaboration knowing you will never drive a benefit for the brand that’s paying you.

Bots Are Not Your Friend

The first thing a brand or campaign manager does (anyone worth their salt, anyway) is check and vet and influencer’s engagement rate. For The Influencer Grapevine’s standards, the minimum we’ll consider legit and worth a brand’s time are those who have an engagement rate of 2% or above. It doesn’t really matter the number of followers someone has if none of them are engaged consistently with the influencer’s content. It's also important to make sure there is meaningful engagement. For example, if someone has an engagement rate of 5% but their comments are blown up by bots, that obviously doesn’t count and is exactly the opposite of what brands want to see.

The worst thing in the world for this industry was when those follower bots came out. Literally nothing good can come from using bots to comment, like, and follow/unfollow. All they do is inflate your following and leave your engagement rate to dry out completely because no real human eyeballs are seeing the content and therefore, no further action can be taken (following a brand, buying from a brand, establishing awareness of a new product, etc.). It’s much better to save yourself the embarrassment and don’t make bots a part of your Instagram strategy.

How To Spot Shadiness

Hype auditor is a tool that can help you easily spot shady activity. You’ll see comments that don’t relate to the photo at all, spam in response to your question stickers on stories. Have you ever been scrolling through your feed, come across a cute photo and checked out the comment section only to find things like “love your outfit” on a photo of a coffee cup...? That’s one of the dead giveaways that something is off. Another indicator is when the number of likes and comments are eerily similar across every single post someone’s made. If that person was just posting and serving her audience the good ol’ fashioned way, she’d see some slight fluctuation and variation across the posts, and a natural increase in engagement for certain types of content because that’s what the algorithm does. There is no taming the algorithm beast to ensure you get exactly the same engagement on every single post unless you buy the likes and comments. It’s fishy and quite frankly, people can see right through it.

What’s The Damage

The result of trying to cheat the system to get ahead is not worth it and almost impossible for an account to recover from if things have gone too far. It creates lack of trust between not only the influencer and brands, but between the influencer and their followers. Not having the trust of your audience and not having much of a real audience at all are clearly not things you want to be dealing with. If When people find out that you have a ton of fake influence, that’s not only a bad reflection on you, but also on the brands you’ve associated yourself with. It tarnishes the perception of the brand. It essentially shows that brands who use artificially inflated influencers are willing to cut corners in not only that capacity but puts into question how much they are willing to cheat in other areas of their business. It just ruins trust overall and the bad taste it leaves in the mouths of real prospects and customers isn’t something that’ll easily wash out.

Build An Authentic Influence Instead

I get it, it can be frustrating when you aren’t growing as an influencer and not seeing the sexy analytics that will make brands want to work with you. That’s because this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes time and consistent work to build a true influence and audience base. Instead of trying to fast track things with fake followers, be smart and efficient with your social media marketing.

Engaging with your audience and creating amazing content, showing up for them consistently over time, and not giving up will yield far better results than the instant gratification of a higher follower count. To kickstart comments from real humans, grab this awesome guide where we share 10 ways to encourage more comments on your posts. This is especially helpful for those whose likes have been hidden by instagram and are looking for another way to keep your audience engaged. Oh, and all the advice in there is by the book, of course.

If you are looking for some other ways you can be more successful as an influencer, check out THIS POST where I share lots of helpful tips that you can jump in and implement. Another bit of advice if you’ve dabbled in the follower-buying scheme is to go and delete them. Get rid of the bots, the useless comments and likes that are coming from nobody, and wipe the slate clean the best you can. Your engagement rate will likely be out of whack for a while, but it’s so much better to have a real, special connection with your followers. Not to mention, be legit and truly valuable to the brands you want to collaborate with.

About The Author

Katherine Pereda is the Founder and CEO of The Influencer Grapevine, a boutique Influencer Marketing agency based in South Florida. Her clientele list ranges from luxury houses such as Gucci, Roberto Coin, Acqua di Parma, Vacheron Constantin, Jitrois Paris, Cartier LatAm, and Jimmy Choo to beauty, home design, fashion, lifestyle, and wellness companies like Maisons Du Monde, Tampax + Always PURE, Home Made Simple by Procter & Gamble, Target, MintedLeaf CBD, and Agnes & Dora. Katherine has also worked extensively in experiential marketing for WantedDesign, New York Fashion Week, DesignMiami/, Glossier, Create & Cultivate, Miami Swim Week, Funksion Fashion Week, and Art Basel Miami. Now specializing in talent management, and brand campaigns, she helps influencers and businesses from all over the world gain exposure, connections, and collaborations to build lifelong relationships.

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