Whether you’re a business looking to grow your presence online, or you’re an influencer hoping to stand out amongst all the talent on Instagram, having an established number of Instagram followers and likes can be the key to success. Whilst these may just be meaningless numbers to some, it can be the defining factor for a potential brand collaboration.

However, some people are falling into bad habits in order to get where they want to be as quickly as possible. Advertisements like “buy Instagram followers”, “100% real Instagram followers” and “buy likes on Instagram” have begun circulating on social media and can sound all too-tempting for budding social media users.

It’s important that brands and influencers alike don’t give in to these ads and instead focus on growing your Instagram account organically. Whilst you may be pleased with your initial purchase, as your follower count begins to rise by the hundreds and potentially thousands, it may harm your account in the long-term.

How to Spot Fake Instagram Accounts

Before we get started, it’s important to learn how to spot fake/bot accounts. Typical signs of fake followers include no profile picture, a blank profile with little to no posts and a lack of intelligent interaction.

The most tell-tale sign, however, will be that the account follows significantly more accounts in relation to the number of their own followers.

1. Fake Followers = No Engagement

If you were to buy a bunch of fake followers on Instagram, you’d quickly start to see their lack of positive impact on your page. Whilst your account may look established from first glance, your posts will be completely lacking in genuine user engagement. This may flag validity issues, especially if you’re an influencer.

Fake followers may not even like your posts. In fact, the most you might be able to get out of them is an automated “nice post” comment. As users and brands sift through your posts, they’ll quickly start to uncover the truth about your initially impressive-looking profile. To demonstrate yourself as a successful influencer, you want to be proving to brands that you can do exactly that by producing evidence of high levels of engagement.

If you’re a brand page using Instagram to market your products or services, you’ll have no luck with fake followers. Whilst they may follow you, they’ll never look at anything you post. This will do nothing to help you sell products to your target audience.

2. Your Account will Pale in Comparison to Genuine Accounts

Expanding on the theme of engagement, your account will have mismatched engagement compared to those accounts that have built their following organically and authentically. This can be the make or break factor for a brand looking for their next influencer marketing campaign.

Here are the average engagement rates for genuine Instagram accounts according to Markerly:

  • < 1,000 followers average about 8% engagement

  • 1,000 – 10,000 followers average 4% engagement

  • 10,000 – 100,000 followers average 2.4% engagement

  • 100,000 – 1 million followers average 1.8% engagement

  • > 1 million followers average 1.7% engagement

If you were to buy Instagram likes for each post you make, your account may look suspicious as you’ll be getting far more engagement than accounts with the same amount of followers as you.

3. You Risk Receiving Inappropriate Bot Comments

Often, when you buy Instagram followers and likes, you’ll receive questionable engagement, if any at all. For example, bot accounts may litter your posts with comments in languages other than your own, meaning you have no idea what they could be saying. From offensive to explicit content, these bot accounts could say anything and are difficult to monitor.

This is the case for the automated “nice post” comments we mentioned earlier on. If you were to use your Instagram account to announce some bad news, such as the passing of a loved one, bots may post these automated comments that are entirely inappropriate for the post - also making it clear to your genuine audience that you have fake followers. This will look inappropriate and unprofessional when your account is compared to other Instagram accounts.

4. Purchased Followers Bring Along Spam

Often, purchased followers aren’t always bots. In fact, they can be real people who use their own feeds for spam. When you buy-in to these fake accounts, you’re essentially opening up your account to a string of spam posts. This could also spread further than just your Instagram account.

If you provided your email address when purchasing your followers, or you simply have it listed in your bio, you may also receive “spam” emails that can clog up your inbox.

If you thought it couldn’t get much worse than that, you’re also exposing your genuine followers to spam. Your followers may innocently follow these spam accounts and the spam will then be spread. After realising the true nature of the spam accounts, these users may go on to unfollow you, causing you to lose out on genuine followers and engagement.

5. Instagram is Smart - It’ll Recognise and Purge Fake Followers

Instagram has a mission to ensure every one of its users has a positive and enjoyable experience when using the platform. With this in mind, Instagram works hard to both find and eradicate these fake accounts.

Performing regular purges on the platform, Instagram searches high and low for these fake accounts to attempt to remove them completely. With incredible amounts of experience, Instagram knows exactly what to look out for.

If you’ve ended up paying for fake followers only to have them removed from Instagram, you’d have wasted money that could have been better spent on a lucrative Instagram marketing campaign.

6. You’ll be Going Against Instagram’s Terms of Service

As with any popular social media platform, Instagram has its own sets of rules that users should abide by in order to use the photo-sharing platform. Within its terms of service, Instagram actively discourages people from buying fake followers.

If you go against this, Instagram will not only purge your fake followers but they also have the right to suspend any accounts wilfully ignoring their terms of service. This will reflect very poorly on your account.

You may get a warning from Instagram the first time your account is suspended. However, if you continue to engage in these dishonest practices, they won’t warn you a second time and will immediately suspend your account.

7. Fake Followers will Harm your Influencer Credibility

If you’re a genuine influencer, you’ll naturally see followers, likes and comments regularly coming into your account. This will happen over time but will quickly start to rise as you continue to progress your influencer journey.

However, if you cut corners in the hope of growing much faster, there’s a high chance that you’ll lose all credibility that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

If your followers start to notice that your account looks unusual in a number of different ways, they’ll naturally start questioning your authenticity and your worth as an influencer. The same issue also applies to brand accounts.

If your social media accounts become questionable, people may start to become suspicious of other areas of your business. They may even ponder if you are dishonest in other business practices, ruining your chances of influencing or converting these users to consumers.

8. There’s no Profit in Fake Followers

Unlike genuine followers who will purchase products or actively promote your brand and refer you to other customers, fake followers will do nothing of the sort. Instead, you’ll spend money on dormant accounts that won’t provide any return on investment.

Brands looking to work with influencers will look beyond the numbers on the surface. They will dive in deeper to get a better understanding of engagement rates to see if the influencer in question will be worth it for their marketing campaign. Not only do they care about an influencers level of engagement, but they also do not want to be stung by untrustworthy accounts.

Remember, with Instagram actively removing fake followers and accounts, you’ll also lose out on money that could have been invested in other, more genuine marketing efforts.

Quick Tips for Building your Account Naturally

It’s not all doom and gloom! You can use your Instagram account positively in a way that’ll see your followers grow and your likes increase without having to buy Instagram followers and likes. Here’s some quick, simple things you can start doing today:

  • Share genuine content

  • Post regularly

  • Get shoutouts from other accounts

  • Consider utilising Instagram ads

Are you interested in collaborating with an influencer on Instagram? If so, we’re here to help! Get in touch with us today to find out more.