Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing a ton of people posting about a new wave of influencers and social media creators that are buying their followers and also their engagement (likes, comments, etc.) on instagram. You may have also seen tons of instagram influencers and celebrities promoting “giveaways” and creating these loops on instagram to gain followers.
I’m going to address the whole “buying” followers thing first, simply because I think it’s one of the most painful things to watch as a creator who has been on the instagram platform for nearly 8 years. I started instagram as a way to document my lifestyle and it was my outlet to genuinely express myself and my thoughts. Over the years, it has become not only a great outlet to connect with millions of people from all over the world, but it has also become a full-time business and job for thousands of people including myself.
For the last 8 years, I have invested my entire life into producing content, interacting with my followers, marketing myself, shooting new projects, working with brands, building business relationships, and most importantly, turning my brand into a full-time career that has allowed me to do what I do. To see other people who just started their brands trying to cheat their way through the system is not only disheartening, but it’s also dishonest and morally just wrong. I don’t think anyone who buys their followers could be proud of something like that. That’s not hard work and dedication day in and day out – that’s just laziness and ultimately, a short-term plan that will get them nowhere in the long-term.
There’s no feeling of great success and achievement that comes with faking your audience. I wake up everyday with a feeling of such gratitude and pride to have come so far and to have been so patient through the process of so many years. While I believe that brands are becoming much smarter and educated when it comes to marketing using influencers, there are still a lot of brands that are learning how to work with influencers on instagram and many of them are scouting out influencers that have fake followers, likes, and comments. This ultimately will lead to a zero return on investment for those brands, which loses them hundreds or thousands of dollars. It’s downright scamming people if you are buying your engagement and then charging brands money to promote their products.
The other scam I would like to address are the current giveaway loops happening on instagram. When I initially saw them happening, I thought “what a cool idea – a great way to give back to my followers, and also expand my audience”. It turns out that this “cool idea” is actually just another way of essentially scamming people to follow you, and really has nothing to do with giving gifts to them. I made the mistake of joining a few of these a while ago, and I will never participate again. Sure, there may be a winner who receives some awesome prizes, but the truth is, in the long-run this is extremely damaging to your brand. People are smarter now and know that for the most part, these things are tricks to boost engagement, growth, and much less about the benefit of the audience. If you’ve participated in the giveaway loops before, you’ll notice that 50% the people who followed you will unfollow you because they didn’t win – and chances are, they won’t participate in the next one. Things I also noticed after participating in a few giveaways and experiencing this firsthand, is that my followers would get greatly discouraged and many of them would lose interest in me and my content. They also would find it as a great reason to unfollow my page because I was disrupting my professional content with tacky, unattractive “GIVEAWAY” images. For about a month after I stopped doing these giveaway loops, my engagement had cut in half and I had lost the value of my brand in not only my eyes, but in many of my followers eyes too.
One thing that HAS seemed to work in my favor is to just be genuine and stop caring so much about growing your brand, and start putting more into the people that already do follow you. Investing in my content daily, focusing on interacting with my audience daily, replying to comments and direct messages, liking and commenting on my follower’s own instagram pages just to put a smile on their faces…THOSE are the steps you can take to ensure you will grow your brand into something that’s long-term. If your content is superb and you’re a good, hard-working person, you will grow your brand, I can guarantee you that. You can NOT fake the grind. There are no “shortcuts” to real success. Remember that.