Why It's Unethical to Purchase Engagement
If you follow us on social media, you know that this topic is extremely important to me as a business owner, but also as someone who works in an industry that believes strongly in ethics. Unfortunately, even within the ‘ethical’ industry, I’ve come across accounts who have purchased their engagement for a few reasons, one being social proof or to look like they have a larger audience than is actually true, and to use that ‘larger audience’ to their advantage. This is an issue that I’ve seen in both brands and bloggers, and is extremely unethical for many reasons.
Before we even begin, I want to make the important point that it is actually VERY easy to tell if an account has bought followers, so please look into this before collaborating with someone so that you’re not wasting your time or your money. You would be surprised at how many ‘ethical’ bloggers that we interact with on a daily basis have purchased engagement, and same goes for brands. You can detect a fake following in two easy steps: First, look at the following number. If they have 17K followers, and 65 likes on every one of their pictures, that’s usually a fake following. I realize that the algorithm lately means less likes than normal, but if less than 5% of their followers are interacting with their audience, it should be a red flag. The second way to tell is to look at a photo that has high likes, such as a giveaway. Scroll through all the accounts that have liked that photo, if you’re starting to notice a trend of sketchy accounts, they are most likely purchased likes.
If you are a blogger purchasing engagement:
1. If you’re charging brands because of your ‘following’ or ‘engagement’ that is not real, you’re scamming brands.
Not only are you taking money under false pretences, you’re also taking advantage of business owners, which is exactly what the ethical industry is trying to combat. These business owners are trusting that the small marketing budget they do have is going towards reaching their target audience. Purchasing followers so that you’ll get paid more money from brands, or purchasing likes so that you’ll have higher engagement on giveaways or collaboration posts is extremely misleading and unethical.
2. You’re hurting other bloggers.
If you are participating in things such as loop giveaways with other bloggers who have REAL, AUTHENTIC followers, you’re asking that their followers follow your account in the giveaway, yet you can’t reciprocate that because you’ve bought a fake following. Not to mention, that businesses could decide to collaborate with you (because of your ‘following’) over other bloggers, who have truly put in the time and work to build an authentic community.
3. Consumers are trusting you as a voice in the ethical space.
If you claim to be an ethical blogger, promoting the change that needs to happen in the fashion industry, your conscious audience is trusting that you practice the same ethics in your own life. What would they think if they knew you purchased followers to gain more social proof and higher payouts from brands?
If you’re a brand purchasing engagement, (or if you’ve hired a marketing agency that is 'magically growing your following very fast,’ take this as a warning):
1. Real Followers = Real Customers
While a large following may look great on your account, you’ll never build a real customer base of people dedicated to your brand, if your audience is not real. Real followers equal real customers who genuinely love and purchase your products.
2. You are blocking real followers from seeing your content.
Instagram is great at tracking if your account is interacting with spam accounts or not. If you’ve been flagged as an account that interacts with spam (fake followers), your content can be hidden from the newsfeed of your REAL followers, never being seen or engaged with by the right people.
3. It is extremely hard to undo.
If you’ve purchased followers, and decide that you want to start over, building a real audience is extremely hard to undo. I’ve taken on clients who had someone else purchase their followers in the past, and getting their engagement back up to even normal is extremely difficult because of your content being blocked from the newsfeed. New potential followers can’t even see your content to engage with it or follow you.
There are so many more points that I could make, but to sum it up, having a ‘large following', is not going to make you successful. Creating an authentic community of people genuinely interested in your brand is what is going to generate revenue, and create lasting relationships. I’d be happy to answer any more questions you may have, or lend a hand in adjusting your social media strategy.