June 28, 2018 · 4:10 pm

Don’t Buy Followers. The Consequences Aren’t Worth It

Big brands are cutting off influencers that buy followers calling the practice dishonest.

By Kelly Johnson

The idea of buying followers can be tempting — especially if you’re a small business, new influencer or emerging entertainer.

The social proof of a large follower count demonstrates that you have engaging and trusted content, a thriving community, and a marketable appeal to brands. In fact, brands often look to influencers who have a trusted voice with a large audience to promote their products.

What’s more, some social media “experts” advise that if you’re new to the social media game, you should buy followers — as many as 10,000 if you can. This way you have an instant (albeit fake) following that signals to big businesses and brands that you’re worth sponsoring.

Don’t do that.

Buying followers (which could be a majority of bots) is dishonest, and businesses are taking notice. Unilever — one of the largest consumer goods companies in the U.S. — announced that they would no longer work with influencers who buy followers.

Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed told CNBC that his company is cutting ties with influencers to improve trust with Unilever’s customer base and to ensure that “that brands and influencers [are] more aware of the use of dishonest practices.”

“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever,” Weed said in CNBC’s report.

Unilever is no joke. They manage some of the world’s and internet’s biggest brands, from Dove to Axe to Ben & Jerry’s. They have called on other businesses and brands to follow suit and cut ties with influencers who have purchased fake followers. Additionally, big brands and businesses will scrutinize the audiences of social media influencers before offering to work with them.

We’ve All Been There, But Building a Strong Community Takes Time

Building a loyal, robust following takes time, but it can be done. Internet scammers may promise thousands of followers overnight, but they’re selling fake engagement. The most successful stars of social media will all tell you the same thing: There is no shortcut to building a large, vibrant community.

Over the past seven months, we here at Sensai have been building our audiences on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Although we’ve seen a few waves of bots follow us, we won’t buy followers. We want to grow our community by offering valuable content and engaging with our community — and you can do the same. Here are additional tips for growing your audience the right way.

Use More Compelling Video Content to Attract Your Desired Audience

Compelling video content that’s visually appealing can give you the hook you need to engage your followers and attract new ones. For example, a tweet is six times more likely to be shared if it’s a video.

If you can’t create your own videos, consider using sites like Giphy or Tenor to source funny, creative content that will help dial up your content.

Focus on Engagement to Increase Your Reach

Growing an audience is great, but nurturing the one you have is actually the best path to growth. Try to carve out about 30 minutes of your day to respond to questions and comments left by your followers on our social posts, and commenting thoughtfully on others’ posts.

A highly engaged audience that’s reacting to your content can grow your organic reach, meaning more new people will see your content and potentially follow you. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube’s algorithms all favor content that drives conversation, so comments that drive more comments benefits you greatly.

You can also give a shout out to other social profiles that you think are doing a great job of building their own communities by “at-mentioning” them in messages or leaving comments on their posts.