Ever wonder how some people (and I emphasize “SOME”) gain many followers almost overnight? Or how some low-quality videos get ridiculous amounts of views? Granted, nowadays silly & simple content has the potential to trend off the charts. However, what about when it comes to content in the beauty industry, specifically in the natural hair community? There seems to be some very odd behavior lately or perhaps it has always existed & many are noticing now. It appears that the competition gets tougher every day as those who paved the way for others have inspired the new natural hair bloggers & influencers to follow in their footsteps. Could new bloggers & influencers fall into the temptation of buying followers, likes, & views to make their numbers seem more appealing, even at the risk of having people question their integrity & motives? Yes. I think that some are of the mind state, “If you can't beat them, buy followers". But can it really be done or is buying followers just a myth? And if it can be done, how simple & easy it is? Well, we have the answer to that & more.
But first, why bother even addressing this? It’s no bother to me, quite honestly. On the contrary, it brings me great joy to be so open & candid with you about a topic that people discuss behind closed doors, but few address out in the open. I bring this topic to your doorstep today because I have seen so many talented and creative bloggers give up their blogging careers (or hobbies) because they see other Instagram accounts that do not put in the work just zooming by in terms of number of followers & it can be quite discouraging for many. Before some of you begin to think “Oh, she’s just doing this because she is hating”. Honey, hating on what? I’m quite happy where I am & I celebrate and applaud many in the community that I am a part of who have succeeded in amazing ways. I’ve never imagined having 600 followers, let alone 6K+ beautiful followers. It may not be the hundreds of thousands that many have or strive for, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to be blessed with the platform that I have and the people that I get to engage with regularly. If I hate on anything, I hate the fact that people are so deceitful. The deceit does not only affect new up and coming bloggers & influencers who are genuine, but also brands, bloggers, & influencers who have been around for years and have put in the work, the honest way. So, let’s get to down to the nitty gritty. Shall we?
Many of you know that I’ve been on this “buying followers” topic for months now. Yes, months! To me, it was as though a wave of pests arrived and I didn’t know whether to get bug spray or shut down my Instagram account because it was irritating my life. Before I did the latter, I voiced my thoughts on several occasions on my IG (Instagram) stories, where MANY of my followers chimed in privately and attested to seeing and knowing about this behavior, as well. One such person was Mikal (@curly.milkaa). Mikal is a curly hair blogger from the U.K./Germany. Mikal had actually shared something similar on her IG stories. We had a private discussion about the topic. I mentioned to her that I was working on a blog post about how some Igers (Intagrammers) buy followers & I asked her if she wanted to collaborate. I felt that getting the opinion of someone living outside of the U.S. and someone much younger than myself would shed even more insight on the issue. Mikal was totally on board with the collaboration and so here we are. Following is what Mikal has to share about this topic, along with several other things:
I am Mikal from @Curly.Milkaa and today I want to talk to you about a quite controversial but interesting topic. Some of you may have already talked to me about this but we felt like this could be something interesting to share with you.
Almost everyone has been there, you work very hard for your blog on Social Media, you invest time, money and other resources, but you don’t see the hard work paying off. You click on a different account and see how their follower number, views and likes keep increasing and you ask yourself- what am I doing wrong? I kept thinking the same. Now, I don’t sit at home counting every single person who follows and unfollows but as time was passing it made me curious. The more I talked to other curly hair bloggers the more I realized that something suspicious was going on. Some accounts went from 1K to 14K followers in 1-2 weeks. So, I asked myself how is that possible? Is it only the content or what else could be behind it? Everyone knows that Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are multinational corporations and that these Social Media networks are one of the fastest growing and powerful industries. Facebook alone earned more than $ 27 billion in 2016. (Instagram’s revenues: $ 1.5 billion).
But what really sparked my interest and therefore this post was the following documentary:
A couple of months ago, it was during election time in Germany, I was watching a documentary about how political parties and companies buy likes, views and even comments on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. By doing so they influence the political climate about certain topics, influencing citizens by statements and therefore giving them an opinion instead of letting them develop their own (manipulating). These statements were shared via purchased likes, views and Social Media bots that kept commenting and liking on certain topics. As an example, buying 224 positive comments on Facebook would cost about €38 (45 USD). If this isn’t bad enough, the documentary showed that not only companies and political parties use these services but that Social Media Accounts/Bloggers do as well. The concept is easy; the more followers, likes, views, comments you have, the more “influential” you become. Big companies will want to collaborate with you, you will get products for free etc. But it got even worse. One of Instagram’s’ policy states that they are the only ones giving out the blue verification badges but it is possible to obtain these badges on the “black market” for any kind of payment (e.g. from bottle of wine up to $10,000) which increases the number of followers since it makes the account seem “trustworthy” and as a result raises the value of your account. I couldn’t believe it, at this point I lost faith in humanity. I thought to myself, how can this be real?
It’s the sad reality we live in and to show you how it works- we tried it ourselves!! Video is at the end of this blog post.
However, I want to tell you that you shouldn’t compare your account with the account of someone else, because for all you know the numbers could be fake. Don’t get discouraged and don’t try to change yourself, especially not for Instagram. Be yourself!! At the end of the day they may have more “followers” but they won’t be you. You can fake numbers but you can never fake authenticity.
Mikal’s contribution to this conversation both frustrated me and made me jump up for joy. It frustrated me because this is truly happening. Yet, I jumped up for joy because I wasn’t alone in my suspicion & frustration. Mikal & I couldn’t just sit by and let this continue without saying something about it. I will clarify and emphasize that not all bloggers and influencers do this. I repeat, not everyone does this. I have seen some whose audience has grown rather quickly. However, you see the authenticity in their content and the quality of their photos. Before we show you that buying followers is possible with a short video that we put together, we want to share the following 10 tips with you (whether you are a blogger, a non-blogger, or a brand):
1) The main problem with this fake followers issue is that services that sell followers, are selling FAKE followers, even if they promise that they are selling real followers. They have networks of fake accounts & use software that is created to automatically follow IG accounts when given the command. Many big brands/corporations take part in this practice to look appealing. Simply put, it’s fraud. It’s fraud when a corporation does it & it’s fraud when a blogger does it. What is fraud? “Fraud is a person intended to deceive others by unjustifiably being credited with accomplishments or qualities” (Google). If you didn’t grow your audience organically, then, well, what is it everyone? Let me hear you say it: “IT’S FRAUD!” Some Instagram accounts are in fact doing this & are getting paid/sponsored to promote to a dead fan base (fake followers/bots) & are deceiving many brands. No Bueno!
2) How can you tell if someone is buying followers? This is a tricky question because as mentioned previously, many Igers do grow their audience rather fast and they do it genuinely. I think most of you are smart and can tell the difference between an account that looks suspicious and one that seems to have real engagement with their followers. Engagement is very important. If someone purchases followers, and let’s say they have 100k followers, but their photos average about 50 likes, um, something is not right. Accounts that also have 2 photos with hundreds of thousands of followers are suspicious.
3) Quality speaks volumes. If the quality of your photos and content leaves a lot to be desired, yet you blew up overnight, that’s kinda sort of a red flag, unless some celebrity reposted one of your pics and even that won’t really get you into the hundreds of thousands of followers right away. You might get many commenters and likes, but followers need more than a reposted photo by a celebrity. They need substance and some form of connection to remain part of your audience. That is a fact.
4) Newsflash: If you have a public IG account, chances are that you have fake followers following you, too. *GASP* Say what? Yes, they are all over the place and on the prowl. It’s hard to keep track of them when you have a lot of people following you daily. It doesn’t mean you are buying followers. Because your account is public, they just attach like leaches. I’ve had to block several of these fake accounts but I know that there are others and it’s hard to go through an entire list of followers when you have thousands to see who is real and who is fake. In those cases, it is usually out of your control.
5) Let’s talk engagement again. Someone who suspiciously grew their IG overnight gets 50k views on a mediocre video but gets 4 comments. Red flag. Bye. Engagement is important. I can’t emphasize that enough. You just don’t get 50k views or 25k likes and have 0-3 comments. Nope.
6) So, what do fake followers/bots look like? These are accounts that will have no profile pic, with zero posts, and 3k+ followers. These are also accounts who may have a profile pic with maybe 5 pics, with 2k+ followers, following back approximately 4k+ followers. Most pics on their accounts won’t have captions or hashtags, either. If they have a caption, it is super generic. Most don’t have bios, either. I could go on and on but too long to share here. I may actually do a separate blog post about that.
7) How do you know if a bot commented on your post? Oh! this has happened to me before. You can identify them because they sound generic and some don’t even make sense because they don’t apply to what you posted. If you reply to them, they won’t answer you because, HELLOOOO, they’re bots, duh! Again, it doesn’t mean that you are buying followers if you get a few bot comments here and there. However, on pages that are “suspicious”, well, yeah, they could be buying all types of things. Shopping sprees… *shakes head*
8) My note to brand ambassadors/influencers who have been around for a while and have grown their page honestly: You rock. You seriously do. Don’t get discouraged because I understand your frustration. I see what is happening. There is a wave of lies and deceit that comes with a side of loss of integrity and it is quite sad, BUT don’t get discouraged. People know you are genuine and that you have put in the work. Many of us applaud you.
9) My note to those buying their way through The Gram: Stop it! That is all.
10) My note to brands: I have several brands that are so dear to my heart and I hate to think that they would be deceived by this behavior. Be mindful of who you collaborate with. Numbers can lie. Who you collaborate with says a lot about your company. I would hate to think that some know about all of this we are sharing and still proceed to collaborate with shady bloggers. Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution. If you collaborate with someone who is buying followers, buying views, and buying comments, they are deceiving you. You are compensating them under false pretenses. You should be appalled. Who are they promoting to? Bots? Yes, they’ll have some “real” followers” but they also have many fake followers. Their numbers hide a very sad story.
11) I know that I stated that I had 10 tips but let's throw one more in. Consider this a bonus tip. I've seen people purchase followers just to get ahead of the game and then they stop purchasing followers, likes, & views. You will see the discrepancy in their likes and views when this happens. They go from 50k views on a video to just 500 views or so (on a video of the same quality). Yes, not all your posts and videos will get the same reaction! However, overall engagement and quality is what you need to look at. Stay woke!
That is all that we have for now. I know that this was a lot to absorb. Hence, why it took us months to put it together. There are many things we didn’t get to share, but perhaps we will do so in the future.
We leave you with this video by @reach_4_da_starz. He is part of this collaboration because he aspires to be a vlogger; he is also my son. We felt that he should be aware of what is happening so that he remains true to himself despite what is happening around him.
Note: None of our accounts were compromised in any way in the making of this video or this blog post. We did not buy followers, likes, or comments on our accounts. The fake account created to share that it can be done, has been deactivated and deleted. It was done solely for the purpose of showing how easy it can be done. IG and other social media platforms are cracking down on this behavior, but apparently it has gotten out of control. Stay true to yourself! Stop stunting for The Gram and BE YOU!
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