Is Bot You See Bot You Get: The Dark Side of Buying Followers

Historically, there’s always been an appeal to popularity. The perception of having power and influence over others tends to sound pretty sexy to a lot of people. In today’s world, that seems to have bled into our social media behaviors. These days, having a massive following online comes with more than just bragging rights. People can cut lines at events and receive free stuff if they have the followers to show for it.  

As trivial as some people find the idea of obsessing over “likes” and followers online, it has also become a bargaining tool for businesses who want exposure from an “influencer’s” fan base. Businesses have been known to give influencers free merchandise in exchange for marketing. Many out there wish to achieve this level of online popularity and are even willing to pay for it. This growing demand has paved the way for programmers to develop “bots,” which in this case represents fake followers. 

Why there’s no return investment on buying bots  

Buying fake followers may seem like an investment, especially for someone wanting that blue checkmark next to their profile or for businesses wanting to reach a large audience. However, there are (very) short-term benefits and even longer-term consequences to this.  

Bots can pose as a security risk because they often bring spam with them. They also have access to your personal information, such as your payment method. There’s really no way to fully verify that the payment portal used to purchase your bots is secured or that it’s not taking more of your money without your knowledge. This also exposes the real accounts who do follow you and could result in others being targeted through phishing scams. 

Not only is buying followers risky, but it could flag your social media account for suspension and/or termination. Platforms like Instagram state in their terms of service that these transactions violate their rules. Not only are these platforms making an effort to purge fake followers, but they could suspend your account if they found out you purchased them. 

Need another reason? Buying bots could affect your engagement levels on your account, which is what actually gets you money and brand deals. There’s also no way to know for sure that bots won’t post inappropriate comments on what you upload. The only way to regulate that is to shut off your comments but doing that could decreases engagement between you and your followers –becoming a loss on your investment. Fake followers won’t earn you money because they won’t pay for your products, nor will they refer you to other people.  

Ultimately, this venture could prove to be counterproductive and even detrimental; People finding out that your followers were bought instead of accrued organically will ultimately ruin your online credibility and any chance of becoming an influencer.  

Signs of a fake follower  

For those wanting to spot a bot, here are some red flags to keep your information safe:  

  • Ratios are very telling. If an account requested to follow you and you see that they follow hundreds, even thousands of people, but hardly have any followers themselves, this is a red flag. It also doesn’t help their case if there are little to no posts on their account. At the very least, they bring little value as a follower and are definitely suspicious. 
  • Ratios are just as important when evaluating user engagement for bot and influencer accounts. An engagement rate of 1 percent is okay for many influencers, depending on their niche. If an “influencer’s” engagement rate for his/her posts is regularly well below than this, beware. If the user engagement seems too high, like someone with 500 followers consistently getting 2,000 likes on every post, that could mean they paid for that engagement. 
  • The quality of their engagement matters. If these accounts demonstrate a pattern of making spammy, irrelevant, or clueless comments, I wouldn’t even engage.  
  • Last, but not least, empty, hidden or copied profile sections are a dead giveaway for phony accounts. Fake users usually don’t put much effort into creating realistic-sounding bios or populating them with anything at all. At a minimum, this should cause concern because a lack of information, or even a profile picture, are unusual for visually heavy platforms like Instagram.  

At the end of the day, the focus shouldn’t be on the number of followers you don’t have. If your primary purposes for social media are to make genuine connections with loved ones around the world, or network with people who can have a positive impact in your life, then who cares if you don’t have 100 likes on a photo? During moments of temptation, remember that people have also become more internet savvy, so spotting bots is much easier, especially through free online tools like this Instagram fake follower checker. 

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