There is a blogger that I follow that drives me nuts. I've been blogging for over 5 years and she suddenly has more followers than me on every. single. platform. In under a year. Don't get me wrong, some bloggers do tend to explode, especially on Instagram. But the majority, especially on Facebook and Pinterest pages, the growth tends to be slower. So how did she seemingly get tens of thousands of followers? She bought them. But here's why that's actually a terrible idea.
Many of you are probably nodding your head (hopefully) in agreement with me. It's downright aggravating that people buy followers and inflate their numbers. But the thing is, brands and bloggers are getting smarter. They are starting to use tools to weed out fakers. Yes, there are tools that can show real page views, percentage of followers that actually engage, and actually show if there are “bots.” But the best way to tell is simply, engagement.
Why Buying Followers Hurts Your Engagement
Before I get into that, I want to talk to you about how the algorithm works on platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. This will help illuminate why buying followers is a HUGE no-no.
How the algorithm works:
There are millions of people on social media. Yes, you don't follow everyone, but you are following enough people to where the algorithm doesn't work in a timeline manner. The exception is Twitter. Twitter is a stream of thoughts, organized by most recent.
With the other social networks, what you post is “weighted.” Meaning, your post isn't shown to absolutely everyone that follows you. So, when you first post, let's say on Facebook, Facebook shows your post to a small group of people. If people interact (like, comment, share) then they start showing your post to more and more people.
Why do they do that? As EdgeRank explains, “Whenever someone visits their News Feed, there are around 1,500 stories waiting to be seen from the friends, people, and Pages that they follow. Since the average person doesn’t have the time to read through 1,500 posts, Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes these stories to show users what they’re most likely to be interested in.” Basically, if they didn't, we'd be overloaded with content. So, social media (yes, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook) take these into account when you log into these apps.
Let me give you an example of how this looks in real life. I have a little over 7,000 Facebook page followers. When I post, I don't “reach” my whole audience:
As you can see, despite this post having 24 likes, 11 comments, and 3 shares, only 2500 people saw this post on Facebook. And the reason being is because of the algorithm. I have 7,000 fans. But not all of them will see what I have to share, especially if they don't interact with what I'm sharing.
Now, another post that I had did MUCH better. Even though I have 7k followers, over 21,000 people saw this one:
This post reached a far wider audience, with 11 shares, and much more interaction. Why did this reach so many more? Because my audience was more engaged, so Facebook kept showing this post to others and therefore they kept reacting.
Of course, if you are really wanting some engagement, you can also pay to boost your posts on Facebook. Which looks like this:
With this post, I boosted it, meaning, I paid Facebook to share this post to more of my followers. I paid about $25 for this, and because of that, it got a lot of interaction. But don't worry, you don't have to pay to play.
Here's the catch though, they (the social media platform) will show your posts to YOUR followers. Including the fake ones. So if you boost a post, you'll be paying to boost it to no one if you have fake fans.
Why is this actually a good thing?
Well, the reason being is that I'm forced to produce the best content. I know that when I publish crap, people won't interact and no one will see what I worked on.
Now, why does this matter for buying followers?
Take a look at all the pages you follow on Facebook, or people you follow on Instagram or Pinterest. Chances are, when you open them up, you won't see everything everyone posted. I'm about to get technical here, so stick with me. Like I said, social media shows what you post to a small group first of your followers. If you bought followers, they will show your post to followers that don't exist (because they're fake.) No one interacts with what you posted because it's falling on deaf (fake) ears. So your REAL followers don't end up seeing ANYTHING because your engagement was so low to begin with. Make sense?
This is actually good news for those of us keeping it real. BUT there is something else you need to be mindful of. I started a Facebook group for bloggers called “Boost Your Blog.” It's now 12,000+ strong but one thing I was noticing was that people were starting “like threads.” It went like this…
“Hey guys, like my page and I'll return the favor!”
Literally, the person would get 200-300 comments. But just like you shouldn't buy fake people, you shouldn't ask for like for likes. The reason being is that if they really don't CARE about what you post, they will just end up being a number that hurts your engagement in the long run.
Can you imagine if you just randomly liked 200-300 new Facebook pages?? Chances are you wouldn't see more than 15% of those and if you never interacted with them (liked, commented, shared) you'd see EVEN less. So yeah, you might have added a “like” or “follower” for them, but really it just hurts their engagement.
What I hope you got out of this: don't just share. Share with intention. Do not just “like” someone's page just because they asked you to. Chances are, if you're just doing them a favor, you end up a number and will never see what they post because you never interact with the posts. Don't buy followers. It WILL hurt the REAL people who do follow you because the way the algorithm is set up, they simply won't see it!
Bottom line: In this social media crazed world it can be very very hard to not focus on the numbers. But what I hope you've learned is to not focus on the numbers, but to focus on the engagement instead. Because who cares if you have 1,000 fans if only 25 people see what you post? Rather, have 200 dedicated fans and 205 people see your work.
See what it takes to REALLY grow your following in an organic way that really works!