Okay guys, I’ve wanted to cover this topic on the blog for a long time because it’s a super controversial subject in the blogging world and I personally find it extremely slimy and untruthful. Ever since I realized that SO MANY people (*cough cough, bloggers*) out there buy their likes & followers on Instagram, I have been fascinated and have looked wayyyy into it to do my research and to be able to report back to you guys from all angles.
First of all… What is it?
When I first heard about people purchasing their likes & followers on Instagram I didn’t believe that established bloggers or brands could really get away with it, so I wrote it off as something only super untruthful people did. Obviously it’s so against Instagram’s policy to do something like that, so I figured why would anyone credible risk it and put themselves into a position where they may lose your account if they got caught? (Let alone the whole authenticity thing… I mean, hello.) But I’ve since learned that there are many, many loopholes in the Instagram system & many thriving businesses that SELL likes and followers!
My first question about the whole thing was: WHERE do people even go to buy likes & followers? Isn’t it some sort of underground business… Wouldn’t it be sketchy to hand over your money to people selling Instagram likes?! So of course I looked into it myself to see what I could find. What I found were that there were ALL sorts of websites that sell likes and followers for a wide range of prices. All you have to do is type in your Instagram handle, choose the amount of likes or followers (or both) that you want, and cough up some money. Not even THAT much money, to be honest.
My Own Personal Experiment…
In good fashion, after I did some research about different sites in the business, I bought some likes (not followers, sorry, TOO weird for me after building a business around authentically growing my following) to see what all the hype was about and to be able to accurately critique the whole process. The first thing I did was purchase 500 likes for about $10.00. Sounds innocent enough, right?
While the transaction was going through, I was basically terrified that A) My Instagram account would get shut down for doing something against policy, B) Everyone would look at my photo and KNOW that I had just bought likes and that I would lose all of my credibility and authenticity, C) The website was fake and would just steal my money and run off with it, and D) That I would fall in love with the idea of “having more likes” and want to do it again and again.
Those were my fears. I’ll tell you what actually happened. The “likes” started flooding in pretty much immediately on the specific photo that I’d chosen. (Oh, that’s the other thing, you can choose a photo or spread the likes out over several different photos.) After about 5 minutes had passed, I had 500 new “likes” tacked on to my most recent IG photo. It seemed way too easy to be true… If it were THAT easy, and honestly that cheap, why weren’t more people doing it, I thought?
(By the way, don’t think I didn’t feel guilty as F throughout the whole process. I felt strange and so inauthentic even though I was really just trying it out of curiosity. But I will get to that in a minute.)
Then I realized what the catch was. Even though these likes were coming in and looked real, if you clicked on the people who had liked my photo, the first 500 people that popped up were literally robot profiles. ROBOT PROFILES! Not real people. I mean, I knew this wouldn’t be real people liking my photo when I was purchasing the likes, but seeming the robot accounts for myself freaked me out and then really sent me into thinking “EVERYONE’S GOING TO KNOW I BOUGHT LIKES NOW!!” I take my authenticity on the Internet very seriously, so although this may sound like a trivial freak out sesh, it had legitimacy in my head.
The way you can tell if a profile is real or a robot is basically by looking at it for two seconds. The robot profiles always have some kind of weird bio that barely makes sense– some I saw were, “Just got a divorce and looking for a good time!” “Say hi to me, I love Instagram!” “Motorcycles and chicks” “Life ROCKS!!!!” and many more simple, robotic sounding phrases that I just couldn’t imagine a real person crafting their Instagram bio would ever say.
The other way you can tell whether an account is real or not is by taking a quick glance at the account’s photos. Some of these robot profiles are set to private and they each have very few followers. The ones that are not private always have about 12-15 photos, with NO likes or comments, and just look faker than life. They are either random selfies of the same person over and over, weirdly filtered photos of cars / bikes / scenic views / anything, and you can just TELL if you’re a perceptive person at all that they belong to someone who is not real. They are accounts crafted by like/follower selling companies in order to keep their businesses running.
SOOOO MANY PEOPLE USE THEM…
Ever since I figured out how to spot a robot profile, I have started searching through the “likes” on a lot of people’s Instagrams… Just out of curiosity! I really wasn’t trying to dig up dirt on anyone or question their morals with their blog/business, but once I realized how easy it was to figure out whether someone’s likes/followers were real… I couldn’t help but look out of pure curiosity and wonderment! Plus, I started thinking, is this something ALL bloggers do and I’ve just totally missed the train?
Basically what I found when I started searching was appalling. SO MANY bloggers that I have followed and admired for years had tons and tons and TONS of fake likes and followers. Tons. People who have generally the same number of followers that I do who I’ve always wondered, “How do they get SO many thousands of likes per photo while I’m over here super stoked if I even get near 2,000 likes?” had so many robot likes. It shocked me. That’s not to say that some influencers don’t have a super high engagement rate (likes per photo), because there are certainly many that do, but specific people who I’d believed to be getting all these likes all the time were total shams.
In a way you’d think this might make me feel relieved because I always wondered why my following wasn’t quite as engaged as some other bloggers that I looked up to, but it actually made me feel REALLY uncomfortable and grossed out to learn that they were buying likes. I think the whole business of selling/buying likes and followers is so slimy. If you are a blogger or an influencer and you are basing your whole business and persona off of social media, buying likes is exactly synonymous to portraying yourself as something that you’re not. It is untruthful, and it’s also a sad display of your own insecurity.
Why is it not okay to just get a real number of likes and move on with your day?! Yikes.
I was pretty much heartbroken to learn that some of these people I’d looked up to were building their businesses off of dishonesty. This isn’t a very longstanding business: blogging as a career is a NEW thing. There aren’t THAT many of us doing that. So the fact that a whole range of people within the business are building their audiences untruthfully freaks me out about trusting people in the blogging/social media space in general.
Then I looked into it further and noticed it with a lot of people who aren’t even bloggers, but rather people trying to grow a business or brand on social media. In a way I understand it because of course having more likes and a bigger following makes you more credible… But if it’s not even real, then why does it even matter? How can you even feel okay with it?!?!
The worst part…
And here’s the whole part that really, really, really bothers me. As an influencer myself who has built an organic following on Instagram and various other social media platforms, the main way that I make a living is by working with brands and promoting their products on my social media. Brands pay influencers based off of their following number and the engagement that they get on their photos. I have 121k real followers on my Instagram, and some of my photos only get around 700 likes if it’s not super popular with my audience. That is TOTALLY okay with me because I understand that many, many people follow and don’t like to click “like” on a photo even if they think it looks good! That’s just the way social media works.
The fact that other people in the same influencer space as me are lying about their numbers and paying for them makes me really sad and bummed out, because they are probably getting paid more than the people who are being genuine about their following– and they’re also scamming the companies who hire them to promote for them. I for one know that they’re getting paid more than I am for their fake 5,000 likes versus my real 700 likes. It’s just a slimy, slimy way to do business in my opinion.
ALSO, it freaks me out that we get so much validation in our culture from the amount of likes we get on a photo… Let’s learn to take that feeling off the Internet and give each other a reason to feel real value in REAL life from REAL PEOPLE, yeah?
The Up Side!!!
It does make me feel a lot better to know that those of us who are genuine will most definitely have longer lasting careers, because our audience base is real. Our audience actually reads our blogs, supports us when we have products to sell (like my upcoming book, woo!), comes to our events and engages with us on a daily basis. It’s AWESOME to know that the people who follow & like my photos actually like what they see, and I love you guys so, so much for coming to the blog and reading.
The other up side is that those of us who aren’t paying for likes & comments are saving the money we make from working hard and actually doing COOL SHIT with it rather than literally throwing it away on robot profiles.
The other upside is that now when I come across other bloggers who don’t buy their likes and followers (and remember, it’s easy to tell if you’re looking), I have SO MUCH respect for them!!! More respect than I would have before, because they are doing business the right away, the authentic way, and now I see how truly respectable that is when so many people out there aren’t being truthful.
I’ve also bonded with some of my closest blogging friends through having discussions about how much we value authenticity and realness in the blogging space (like Annie & Kelly, two of my BFF’s off the Internet who happen to have kickass, genuine blogs and social media accounts), so really, I know all hope is not lost.
And maybe some people care less about portraying genuine realness on the Internet than I do, and I get that. I know that for some people creating a brand or blog that LOOKS super duper awesome to the outside world is more important to them than what’s really going on. I guess I won’t knock it if that’s what works for some people.