Should you buy Instagram followers?

Hooray 🎉 you’ve just launched an Instagram page for your brand, your aspiring influencing business or your dog (no judgement - Louie has her own account). At this point you've probably posted a few pics, spent some solid time crafting the *perfect* captions and have maybe even thrown on a #hashtag or two. Now what? You’re patiently waiting for the likes, comments and follows to start pouring in. You keep at it for a week, or a month, but you’re starting to ask yourself, “is Instagram growth supposed to be this slow?” Then, before you know it, you’re researching growth tactics and questioning if you should purchase a few followers to kickstart your page, since there are tons of sites boasting “real” followers for just a couple bucks. It’s so common it must be a good idea, right?

Wrong.

If you are currently contemplating purchasing followers, let me try to stop you right here (please, put down the credit card).

There are several reasons why purchasing followers is never a good idea (side note: these apply to purchasing “likes” too). Keep reading for three big reasons purchasing followers is not a good Instagram growth strategy.

Reason 1: Engagement Rate

Instagram is in the business of keeping their users scrolling and happy for as long as possible and as often as possible. To do so, Instagram uses an algorithm which puts the posts that are likely to be relevant to the user towards the top of that user’s feed. For example, someone who consistently likes, comments on and/or shares John Mayer’s posts will be more likely to see new posts by John Mayer at the top of their Insta feed.

Okay, so what does this mean for engagement rate?

Mathematically, engagement rate is calculated as

(Likes + Comments + Shares) / Number of Followers

When followers are purchased from third-party websites, the new followers are often inactive, bots or straight-up spam accounts. That means these followers rarely, if at all, comment on or like content. By quickly and drastically increasing the number of followers without increasing the amount of likes, comments or shares, accounts with purchased followers will take a big hit to their engagement rate.

Essentially, Instagram’s algorithm then interprets this low engagement as “the content posted by this account is bad or irrelevant.” The page’s posts will then be ranked lower in users’ feeds (making any real followers have to scroll down even farther before seeing the post).

The main takeaway? Quality of followers over quantity.

Reason 2: Credibility and Reputation

Not only will Instagram interpret low engagement rate as a red flag, any real people looking at a page with low engagement will too. Think about it: It seems suspicious when an account that has thousands of followers receives only a few likes or comments on a post (and if you’re an influencer, this could deter brands from reaching out to you for collaborations).

On the contrary, accounts with high engagement rates are considered to have better content, and are therefore ranked higher in user’s feeds. Therefore, Instagram growth strategies should involve posting quality, relevant content that engages existing followers (no matter how few) on a consistent basis. Strategically placing hashtags and locations can help your page get discovered by more people already searching for the topic you are posting about. Users who click on a page because of awesome content will be way more likely to remain long-term followers.

The main takeaway? Content comes first.

Reason 3: Instagram Policy

Instagram is against the tactic of purchasing fake followers and likes, as stated directly in their Community Guidelines. Not only does Instagram’s algorithm essentially “penalize” accounts with low engagement by ranking them lower in feeds, they also could shut down accounts entirely if purchasing followers from third-party services was detected. No one wants all their hard work vanishing into thin air - so don’t risk it!

Instagram has been known to periodically go in and “purge” accounts of fake followers, which also would make those followers a complete waste of money.

The main takeaway? It’s against the rules.

Your money would be better spent directly with Instagram

Purchasing followers from third-party applications is considered a no-no, however, running advertising campaigns on Instagram directly could be an effective part of an Instagram growth strategy. Instagram offers several different campaign objectives such as increasing followers, expanding brand presence, driving website traffic and more. You’ll need a business Instagram to be able to access this feature but if you’re serious about Instagram growth - you’re going to want to make the switch anyway. Business accounts get access to fancy insights such as impressions, reach and interactions.

Once you’ve switched to a business Instagram, you’ll want to get it set up in Facebook Ads Manager. Ads Manager is where the magic happens - you can add a campaign budget, desired demographics, images, ad copy and placements. You’ll also be able to optimize the campaign from here as it progresses and make adjustments to your creative and audience as needed.

If you’d like assistance or insight with Instagram advertising, fill out the contact form below and Emily will be in touch about getting started.

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Emily Connolly