Editor’s Real Talk: The truth about who’s buying Instagram followers

First off, this is not going to be one of those controversial articles where I share the Husskie blacklist of who we think is buying followers or point out individual people’s activities. I’m not that type of person and Husskie is not that type of publication. While here at Husskie HQ we may not agree with the purchasing of followers, we’re also not in the business of naming and shaming. Apologies if that’s what you came to this article for.

That being said – I do want to clear some things up in regards to the purchasing of followers as I think there is a lot of confusion in this area. There is no denying that buying followers does happen a lot – by some influencers, brands, businesses and Jo Blow down the street who has dreams of one day leaving her job as a bank manager to be a lifestyle Instablogger.

But it is also NOT happening a lot.

Every time I hear comments like: “She probably bought her followers”, or “Oh yeah, everybody buys followers…” a little part of me shrivels up inside. I hate that it’s become such a common perception that everyone is buying followers because NOT EVERYBODY IS BUYING FOLLOWERS. Wow, sorry for the shouting – but it just had to be done.

And sure, jumping on Social Blade or other programs that tracks an account’s history does tell some of the story when it comes people’s followings – it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Below, I’m going through some of the myths and truths when it comes to the buying of followers…

Myth: Her following has been growing evenly, therefore she hasn’t bought any followers.
Truth: Nope, not true. Some companies selling followers do it gradually so it looks more realistic. Yep, people can opt for a buy-in where their growth looks super authentic. About as groundbreaking as florals in spring.

Myth: She jumped by 2000 in a day, she must have bought followers.
Truth: There are so many ways a person’s following can suddenly increase – the image got reshared by a bunch of different accounts at the one time, they ran a giveaway, they went to a party with a host of influencer friends that all featured them, they had a post on Pinterest or some other social media platform that went viral, they did a template in Instagram Stories that really took off… there are so many ways a person’s following can dramatically increase in a day that doesn’t automatically mean they bought followers. If you want to work with someone and suspect they have gone about it the wrong way – maybe send them a message to ask why their following suddenly spiked. They may just have a very good reason for it. Don’t assume the worst (unless their new following looks a little like the below…!)

Myth: She has lots of likes on her posts, so she hasn’t bought any followers.
Truth bomb: Sad truth, these days you can buy likes as well. Actually, you can buy packages of followers and likes together in one big discount bundle. It’ll probably only cost you $1 as well (okay, maybe $10).

Myth: Her following suddenly went up and then down straight after – a clear sign she bought followers.
Truth: I use to think this was an obvious sign of buying followers – but I’ve been a first-hand witness that this isn’t always the case. I recently did a giveaway on my personal account @thebraidedlena that went a bit viral and my following went crazy. It spiked up massively during the giveaway – and then plummeted by half at the end of the giveaway. Call me naive, but I was completely taken back by the entire thing – I never knew people cared about a giveaway so much! Influencers these days are running a lot of giveaways, so be aware that some can go a bit nuts and then have a recoil. P.S. For the record and in case any of you were wondering – no, I have absolutely never bought followers on either The Braided Lena or Husskie Press and I never will.

Myth: Her following was stagnant for ages and now it’s growing at an alarming rate, clearly buying them now.
Truth: People are not oblivious to the fact that their numbers are stagnant – and sometimes they decide to actively go about changing this. Maybe they’ve given up their 9-5 job to go full-time influencer (I’ve seen this happen lots), maybe they’ve appeared in the Stories of a lot of big time influencers (I’ve seen this happen), maybe they’ve started actively engaging with a lot more accounts and found a way into the hearts of the Explore tab (seen this happen), or maybe they’ve found some magic bullet that the rest of us haven’t found yet (well… I certainly haven’t!) – but this does happen without any buying of followers. Again, if you smell a rat – then don’t just assume it’s a rat… maybe send them a message asking if they like to eat mice first. Bad analogy? Maybe…

I realise this article has probably made it harder than ever for you to decipher who’s been buying followers or not – but I do think it’s important to highlight some of the myths currently floating around the industry. My true recommendation is to take a look into each individual’s actual account. What do the accounts look like that are following them [sometimes you need to go deep]? Who’s liking? Who’s commenting? Are they real comments [my suggestion here is to look for a more personal post and see how people are responding to that…]? And ALWAYS – get a screenshot of their analytics. If the number one country their followers are coming from is Bangladesh, you may want to be asking them some more questions [that is, if they’re not actually a Bangladeshi].

I’m going to doing more of these Real Talk articles going forward. If there’s a topic that you would be interested in me writing about – please leave it in the comments below and I will add it to the list.

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3 Discussion to this post

  1. Kim Westwood says:

    Great article… I do however think we need to shift the conversation away from fake followers and redirect the conversation toward conversion and objectives. If a blogger does have x number of fake followers (and they probably do, even if they didn’t buy any!) it shouldn’t really matter if they are meeting your objective as a brand and delivering the right volume of traffic and sales to your site (if that’s what your objective is). I think we all recognise there are some dodgy operators in any industry…let’s not focus on them. Let’s focus on creating a fabulous return for those who work with influencers!

  2. Sarah says:

    Such valid points you made!

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