Recently, I purchased social media followers for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Why? You may ask. I should know how to attract social media followers, given the nature of my work. And of course, I do. But the decision to purchase followers was born out of a burning curiosity. Allow me to explain…
Sometime back I was asked to help a client with their online social media marketing. For the purposes of this piece, let’s call them “Cuba”. I have always wanted to visit Cuba, so it seems as good a name as any. The objective of Cuba was to increase follower growth and to raise their brand profile in their field of work.
Increasing social media followers is a natural part of digital marketing and business growth. But the number of followers is not everything, as I will soon explain. I dug in a little to find out why Cuba needed so many followers and really couldn’t get to the bottom of it. We don’t like to judge, but I confess I did – it must be vanity likes that they were wanting. Vanity metrics.
Anyway, I attempted to explain that it doesn’t matter if you have 50 followers or 5000 – engagement trumps everything. Upon reviewing the social media accounts, I could see that Cuba had purchased a number of followers many times.
And this got me thinking – for a long time, I have popped onto so-called “popular” people’s accounts and trawled through their followers. Wondering how many of them have been bought? How many are genuinely organic followers? You may (or may not) be surprised to know that there are a lot of Cubas out there, buying social media followers to satisfy the need to be seen as popular and increasing their vanity metrics.
So, I gave it a go to see what would happen.
Alright here we go; day one. I signed up on one of these ‘We can get you social reach, followers – whatever you like!’ websites. Just like a candy store, it included a pic and mix. Followers, likes, shares – from 50 to 5,000 or more, you pick the right price for you.
Like a newbie about to take a needle to the arm for a hit, I looked at the plethora of options and made a quick decision. I purchased 200 followers for Facebook, 200 for Twitter, and 150 for LinkedIn.
It happened quickly. As I poked the digits on my keyboard from my payment card, this is what I felt: a fraud! Yes, that’s right, a fraud. It was a hit for a mini fix. I thought I would feel elation; instead I felt shame. It sounds dramatic, but the whole experience just highlighted how absurd the desire to be popular really is.
And then it occurred to me – what drives us to the point where we’re willing to pay to be liked?
As a digital marketer who works regularly with social media, it is important for me to understand people’s motivations for purchasing followers and the underlying causes and behaviours related to social media popularity. They are interesting avenues to explore. But what do we know already? Human beings are social creatures. We desire to be loved and noticed, to be accepted by others. And this desire can bleed into our professional lives at a tremendous cost – even more so now without face-to-face human interaction.
There is an interesting book called Popular (how appropriate) by psychologist Mitch Prinstein. In an interview with the American Psychological Association, Prinstein argues that issues related to popularity and status as teenagers follow us through to adulthood. If we are to assume this is true, perhaps some of us attempt to rectify perceived failings relating to popularity during adolescence through social media, such as buying followers. But there’s a duality here; the desire to be seen as popular is not only an individual, psychological phenomenon. Surely, this is a matter of society as a whole? After all, social hierarchy can be a brutal and powerful motivator for success.
As I write this, my decision to purchase social media followers is now having an impact. In the last hour I have gone up to 90 extra followers – all paid for. I have received two calls, one from a number with a China code and the other with a Nigerian code. Two hours later, I received two unknown calls.
I didn’t pick up.
Although I am doing this as an experiment, I am continually worried about the implications for my business. What would someone think if they peeked into my profile and saw all these extra followers? I do not wish for them to make a quick judgement before I have released this article.
Is it obvious to people that these extra followers are, essentially, fake? I would loath to be viewed as just another marketing business selling a dream, but not providing the goods. Authenticity and credibility should be incredibly important to any business. These are the questions one must seriously consider before making a decision on buying social media followers.
Furthermore, the calls I received following the purchase have worried me. This has got me thinking – once people have access to the real you, are you opening up a whole lot of security issues? Before, they wouldn’t have known me; am I now inadvertently telling people that I’m vulnerable?
All these new followers now have access to my business email and phone number. But can they be trusted with such information? Fraud, cyber security, and data theft are real issues. Can I really be sure that I have not jeopardised my security just for some extra followers? The implications are stark. I don’t even know who these people are – or how much of my information they now possess.
So, is it really worth it? It comes down to the simple fact that I have bought followers – not engagement. And as I said earlier, engagement trumps everything.
I know this may be a controversial topic because some people may buy followers just to pump up their numbers, and yet others may do it to be seen as popular. But it’s interesting to explore the underlying causes that drive people to desire popularity on social media.
We all have a need to feel connected and liked at some basic level; that is part of being human. But popularity for popularity’s sake? Perhaps it’s a psychological or biological phenomenon. Or maybe this desire has roots in our childhood and the way in which we were socialised.
In a wider context, you see it all the time on Twitter; people spouting various ‘hot takes’ to get likes, retweets, and more followers. Has social media perhaps reinforced our unhealthy obsession with popularity? Or has it simply become a tool for certain people to fulfil their narcissistic desires?
Ultimately, this has been a rather enlightening anecdotal experiment. If you are considering buying social media followers, I hope my story has helped inform you about the possible implications.
I suppose the question now is – how do I get rid of these fake followers?