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Monday
Jun042012

Why Buying Followers is a Bad Idea

Buying Facebook or Twitter Followers

There are several companies out there that offer services where you can buy “real” followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Other services sell “real” views on YouTube videos or plays on Sound Cloud. For nearly every social media site available, there are services that claim to boost your reach, increase your followers, and give you more credibility by increased views.

How They Work

Follower services are driven by bots. In other words, they are fake accounts generated by a system that is only programmed to follow, watch a video, or listen to a song. Often times, the followers will be from other countries, only speak in a foreign language, and the names/photos will be obviously fake. While these sites claim that what they are offering is completely legitimate, nearly every social media site strictly prohibits buying followers and it can result in the suspension of an account.

Why It Is a Bad Idea

There are a number of reasons why you don’t want to buy followers:

  • On Facebook, your real fans won’t see your updates. If you haven’t noticed, Facebook is trying to get fan and business pages to pay for posts to be seen by all of their followers. When you create a status update or make a post, on the bottom right hand corner, there’s now an option that says “promote.” Clicking on it reveals the price you have to pay so that all of your followers will see that particular post (as opposed to the much smaller audience that actually sees it). Because Facebook will only show your post to a small percentage of your followers, a false increase in your audience dramatically lowers the chances that the people who actually care about what you have to say will be able to see it. Do you really want to pay $10, $20, $50 per Facebook update to make sure your fans see important announcements?
  • It’s all about engagement. It’s easy to tell which pages have bot-generated followers as opposed to having real fans: there is hardly any interaction on their pages. Real fans will like, comment, and share content. Fake accounts just sit there and eventually get deleted by social media services since they are inactive or only generate spam. All social media rating systems (such as Klout.com) base their measurements on your engagement to determine your actual reach over the number of followers. If you want increased credibility, you need actual people, not spam accounts.
  • You lose the relevance of  all demographic information. One of the most valuable features of social media is the level of demographic information available: you can see who your audience, where they from, and how you can better appeal to them. The moment you throw in bought followers who aren’t real fans into the mix, you lose the relevance of this data. This will hurt your sponsorship proposals as well as most of your marketing efforts.
  • Bought followers will never be fans. These are fake accounts, they will never lead to a sale or genuine support. They will never share your content with others. Just because a website advertises these as “real” followers doesn’t mean that they are actually real people who care about what you do.
  • Buying followers will jeopardize your account. Is it worth losing your social media account simply to have a higher number of fans showing on your page? If you lose your page, you would have to start all over again from the very beginning and you will have lose all of your content/page history.

There are no shortcuts in building a strong audience. You have to create organic, contagious content that people would like to interact with. Although you have to build your audience one fan at a time, at least the interactions will develop long term, sustainable relationships. Those are the types of followers that are truly worth investing in.

Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking and author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (24)

Simon.. Good post. Can you clarify "a false increase in your audience ". Thanks.

Hi Bruce,

By "false increase in your audience," I mean just that - purchased social media followers on are simply bot/spam accounts that create the impression that an artist has more fans than they really do. The increased number of likes only decreases the possibility that real fans will have access to content, receive updates, etc.

June 4 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

Simon - you wrote "Facebook is trying to get fan and business pages to pay for posts to be seen by all of their followers. When you create a status update or make a post, on the bottom right hand corner, there’s now an option that says “promote.” Clicking on it reveals the price you have to pay so that all of your followers will see that particular post (as opposed to the much smaller audience that actually sees it). Because Facebook will only show your post to a small percentage of your followers, a false increase in your audience dramatically lowers the chances that the people who actually care about what you have to say will be able to see it."

Could you talk about this a little bit more? I'm confused by the "clicking on it reveals the price you have to pay..." portion. My page doesn't reveal this when hovering above or clicking on the percentage or the people reached options. Is there something I'm missing?

These days with how cheap & highly targeted you can make pay per click ads, it's confusing to me why someone would pay to boost their followers in another way. I ran a Facebook ad that generated 2000 like on my page at a penny per click for only about $30 which is theoretically recoverable & gets the same popularity boost appearance. But I would like to say that I'm still not super excited with the low like/follow to purchase conversion rates. Nothing more disconcerting that putting a link to a new album, getting 30 likes, & only one sale....

i have a couple of issues with this article. first of all, there are services that deliver real fans and not bots. i don't work for any of them, but i have used their services and the new followers have been real music fans, all based in north america. the other issue i have is that there is more than one reason to pay a fee to get new "likes." for an artist, it is worth spending a couple hundred bucks to get a thousand facebook likes if you are a new act trying to get attention from the media. if you try to get a writer to check out music from your new band they're probably going to go straight to google and facebook, and as soon as they see that you have only a handful of likes many writers will conclude that your'e irrelevant and move on to the next artist. also, paid updates on facebook are generating some backlash, so it may not be a great plan. too early to tell. some bought followers will convert, but the real goal is to look legit while you're out trying to generate more fans organically. but...so far, none of our "bought" fans have gone away. they're all sticking around, so we'll see.

June 4 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Brian, I would love to hear more about your $0.01 CPC campaign on Facebook! The best I've gotten was $0.13.

if you try to get a writer to check out music from your new band they're probably going to go straight to google and facebook, and as soon as they see that you have only a handful of likes many writers will conclude that your'e irrelevant and move on to the next artist.

If they're going straight to FB or Google, then you're doing it wrong. The whole point of PR is to drive them to your site, and to your press kit. The press is going to regurgitate whatever you tell them, so if you send them to a FB page, then that's where they're going to tell their readers to go. Do not do that.

Don't let FB determine your relevancy. YOU tell them how relevant you are.

If you don't have enough fans to look legit on FB, then don't start a FB page. My last band was able to get press, interviews, reviews all without a FB page. Don't believe the hype. You sell yourself in the email, include the press release, and direct links to your music. Don't send traffic (even critics and the press) to some third party site. You're doing the work, bring them to your house.

Bandcamp is your friend. Looks legit, and you don't have to do any follower whoring.

June 5 | Unregistered CommenterFS

Great post. I remember arguing a very similar thing in a blog post a couple of years ago;

Basic argument being "Great! You bought 90 million Myspace friends! That impressed a record label to give you a deal!..oh wait, now you have to play your first show as a signed band and those 90 million 'friends' are nowhere in sight!

Also agree with FS on this post:
"If they're going straight to FB or Google, then you're doing it wrong. The whole point of PR is to drive them to your site, and to your press kit. The press is going to regurgitate whatever you tell them, so if you send them to a FB page, then that's where they're going to tell their readers to go. Do not do that."

Back when I worked as a music journalist nothing would annoy me more than bands asking for publicity and then saying "you can search us on Google or Facebook"

Great, as if I haven't got enough to do today. Give me a straight URL to a place I can listen to your music and find out what you're all about, and let's talk about an article. Asking for free publicity but making the journo do all the work for you is not likely to endear you to him.

But that's completely off topic as far as this post goes.

Original blog post on buying friends/followers (if I'm allowed to post) is http://cskoyles.blogspot.com/2010/05/myspace-profile-views-am-i-missing.html

"If they're going straight to FB or Google, then you're doing it wrong. The whole point of PR is to drive them to your site, and to your press kit. The press is going to regurgitate whatever you tell them, so if you send them to a FB page, then that's where they're going to tell their readers to go. Do not do that."

You act like you have control over how a writer decides to check up on an artist. That's fantasy--whether you tell them to go to Facebook or not many writers are going to go there anyway to see how relevant you are, and they're going to judge that in part by how many Likes you have. That's just a fact. You can direct them to your website all you want, but a lot of them are going to do a google search whether you like it or not and if it looks like nothing's going on then you look irrelevant. Would you buy a car based solely on what the salesman tells you? Of course not, and most writers aren't going to be that sloppy or simple-minded either. Sure, some of them will simply regurgitate the press release (so it better be good!), but for anyone who goes beyond that you need to look good and relevant beyond your website.

June 6 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

If you want to tell your fans how to see all your posts, this article has a quick explanation of what happened and how they can change it - http://alwaysupward.com/blog/fb-fans-arent-seeing-your-posts-and-how-to-fix-it/.

Personally I've always believed it's best to give fans as many avenues to find you as possible. Different people look different places and Facebook is pretty overwhelmingly popular, if you haven't noticed. Definitely promote your website, but make sure there are links to all you social media. Nothing annoys me more than not being able to keep up with a band because there's nothing to subscribe to.

Hi Christian,

This is a new feature that Facebook has been rolling out across pages so you might not have seen it yet. I admin for about two dozen pages and started seeing it appear in a few of them mid-May. As of today, the "promote" it feature has appeared in nearly all of them.

You'll see that your timeline will look somewhat different. In the bottom right corner under each update, it'll show "X number of people reached, Y%" and on the right hand corner, you'll see a drop down menu for "promote." Clicking on this will open a new menu that says "Get more people who like your page to see your post" then it offers a price with an approximate number of followers who your post will actually be revealed to.

Here's a little of the work around: have every of your fans visit your page. If the click on the checked "Liked" box at the top of the page, a drop down menu will appear. Have them click on "Show in News Feed" to increase the likelihood that your post will show in their newsfeed.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

Brian JM -

Agreed! Targeted ads are always going to be more effective, especially if you can narrow down the query so that it really matches the interests of your target audience (not only will it increase the click through rate but you'll spend much less doing so too).

June 9 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

Hi David,

The "Bought" fans are simply bots so they tend to stick around until Facebook or Twitter begin closing out the accounts. Looking "legit" as opposed to being "legit" is something that people in the industry can tell right away. Having a huge number of followers does not guarantee that a journalist will write about the band or even take them more seriously. Having a rigorous tour schedule, great music, and a publicist does.

One of Pitchfork's top picks for last year was this solo artist that I booked for from Boise, ID with less than 200 likes on Facebook (since that feature he exploded and landed a record deal).

I'd say that for the money, you're best spending it on targeted ads or hiring a publicist.

June 9 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

Hi David,

Out of curiosity, what kind of track record have you had in working to get press? Did you see a dramatic increase after you bought followers in terms of getting write-up's, interviews, show previews, etc. that could be attributed to having a larger fan-base?

Between my publicist and I, we work with about 2,000 journalists for our bands and I can assure you that the number of followers on social media have very little to do with whether or not they decide to do a piece on the band, review their record, etc (at least with the ones we work with, which are primarily print and web writers).

The same can be said for record labels, booking agencies, etc....they tend to care about other metrics, such as your Soundscan sales numbers, frequency of touring (and the types of venues played), engagement, etc.

June 9 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

all true, i talked to a guy that works for reverbnation and he told me how they work.You pay them and they will spam all of the users to be friends/fans.. have bots boost your plays/views.. that all the bands/artists the rank on the top reverbnation charts are all fixed...

June 12 | Unregistered Commenterjcmfer

simon, i posted a reply but i guess it's not going thru for some reason. anyway, the company we used to get facebook likes for a couple of our artists resulted in likes from people. we went thru the likes and there aren't any bots in there. i have no doubt that soundscan stats, touring history, and a write-up in pitchfork did nothing but help your artists in terms of media attention, making fb numbers secondary. fb likes are less of a priority for a group like that, but it becomes more important for new artists who have no track record or history, but are trying to get media attention. if the likes were fake fb pages i would agree that it was a low value smokescreen, but that's not the case. been doing music promo for over a decade, fyi, and we're seeing it make a difference under the above circumstances. that's all i can tell ya.

June 12 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Hi David,

If the bought followers are genuine and they're leading to increased attendance at shows, album sales, or increased engagement, then more power to you.

I know that many of the "buy followers" websites out there are creating more and more complex spam profiles with photos, a profile of sorts, etc. But the users tend to have little no to activity on their walls, are just friends with other fake/created accounts, and tend to never interact with the pages they "like." Real fans earned through genuine interactions (or even well-created targeted ads) might take longer and require a greater investment of time and resources, but they are worth it.

June 13 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

Simon,

While there are many sites out there that provide "fake followers", there are also some genuine websites as well. This is true of nearly all products and services offered over the internet.

I happen to work for a social media management company and I can tell you with 100% certainty that all of our followers are real. There are three methods that we use to add REAL followers:

1) Follow-first method: This method can build a truly targeted base of followers in a matter of days. Most of our clients will see an immediate increase in traffic to their site and a measurable increase in sales over a longer period.

2) Favorite method: This method is unique to our company as far as I know. Our software will mass favorite tweets and build a following this way. The favorite method is actually much more effective than the follow-first method. This method averages a 20 to 45% follow-back ratio. Our clients can give us keywords such as "I need new shoes" and our system will favorite any tweet that has the phrase. In this method, the following number does NOT increase, so this is the preferred method of our higher profile clients.

3) Non-Targeted: This method is our fastest. We have networks in place that reach over 10 million active users on Twitter. We will promote your account to a portion of our network which will generate followers at an extremely fast pace.

I would refer you to our website to see a video of how our methods actually work. http://www.fastfollowerz.com/about/how-it-works/

I understand your concerns about some sites but you must understand that you can't generalize that to be "all followers services are fake and therefore you shouldn't buy them". This type of rational can be applied to nearly everything and is blatantly inaccurate.

Best Regards,

Brandi
Fast Followerz
(877) 689.3386 ext.701

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterBrandi

Music Industry veteran Cari Cole just posted this today:

"An Industry insider can tell from a mile away if you’ve purchased your YouTube views, Facebook fans and/or Twitter or Tumblr followers. How, you may ask? Because of the lack of interaction. If you have the type of fans that latch onto your social media page and never say another thing to or about you, it’s for one of two reasons:

You’re not interesting enough to retain them as fans, or…
Far more likely, you bought followers or fans just to inflate your overall numbers and “look good”– PLEASE don’t do this!"

http://www.caricole.com/blog/2012/08/07/how-industry-discovers-new-talent/

August 8 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

Shitty article and way too vague. Basically going by this, all black people are lazy and all mexicans work for $1.

There may be many fake services out there but do your research, there are actual companies that specialize in your niche and provide quality social marketing.

December 11 | Unregistered CommenterStacks

Stacks - the same could be said about your comment. Way too vague.

What decent, reputable company or artist actually relies on bought followers?

December 11 | Unregistered CommenterUnstack

This article is too vague. Yes, there are a lot of fake services out there but I happen to own one that is real. I have been working in the music industry for 5 years now. I own 5 websites musicians use to upload and share their music on. I provide a music followers service that is 100% real. This article is just as bad as saying all black people are ignorant.

There are a lot of shitty services out there, but like the comment above me said there are services that deliver real followers! People will always be impressed by how many followers you have, fake or real, that's what is driving this industry!!

February 17 | Unregistered CommenterTom

There are a lot of techniques to getting twitter followers. Reading this article really helped me in understanding more about getting twiiter followers for free. I have read related article that talks the same point like this one. It also helped me with the better understanding of getting twitter followers.

April 23 | Unregistered CommenterMarian

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