Let me start off by saying to each their own… if you want to buy followers, go ahead and do that. This isn’t to “expose” anyone, just want my followers and fellow bloggers to understand the difference between an authentic and a purchased following. Business and bloggers who buy their audience are what’s going wrong with social media, spotting them is how to help solve the problem.
To those who didn’t know there is such thing as buying your Instagram followers, there is and both people and businesses do.
Unfortunately for bloggers and small businesses trying to grow the organic way it can be frustrating to watch your number stay the same or rise slowly while another blogger or business (your competitor) is gaining over 500 followers a day (that’s a read flag by the way).
It becomes really hard not to compare yourself to the blogger down the street, and/or across the country and as much as we bloggers love to preach “community over competition“, it is a competition. We’re competing to make money in very saturated field, we’re competing to stand out in a sea of thousands. This means that we’re going to compare ourselves, just as the companies “probably” are comparing us.
**Don’t get me wrong, most of the girls I’ve met through pghbb are now my lifelong besties, the rest I just haven’t gotten to know well enough yet. I love networking with women in my field, and because of pghbb I put off writing this post for so long… but at the end of the day IT IS a competition and this is an aspect of that competition in which some light needs to be shed on.
As I said before, competition leads to comparing. Comparing yourself to your competition can ruin your brand. It typically leads to two detrimental things, 1. we get down on ourselves and lose the motivation to create OR 2. we (often without knowing) begin to mimic these other bloggers and lose our authenticity.
In order to STOP the comparing game and be “okay” with gaining our own following at our own rate, I decided to educate all of you on how to spot influencers and small businesses with fake or purchased followers. Keep in mind always that Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day.
1. Follower to Likes Ratio
Engagement is key for marketers, but have you ever wondered why your fellow bloggers and small businesses have about 26000 followers but get way less likes than you do at a whopping 2500? It’s probably because they’re buying their followers…
Here’s a very mathematical way to deduce if your blogging idol is a fraud, I got this information from DigiDay.com.
To calculate the engagement rates mentioned below, take the blogger under suspicion and average the amount of likes they’ve gotten on their last TEN pictures.You then need to take the average and divide it by their number of followers, the final step is to multiply by 100 & there it is…
Now obviously this number means nothing unless we have something to compare it to. Luckily that same article cited above hooked us up with that as well…
*Disclaimer, this article was written right after the first IG algorithm release, these figures may not be firm BUT they’re a good guideline*
Influencers with less than 1000 followers should average 8.03% likes.
Influencers with between 1000 and 10k followers should have an average like rate of 4.04%.
Influencers with 10k to 100k the magic number is going to be 2.37%
…the list goes on, but I think we can stop at 100k. When I did my own at the time of writing this post, it came out to be 4.84%, just for transparency and reference, when I did it I had about 9,080 followers. Right on target.
Please note this is not a full proof way to tell, just like you can buy followers, you are also able to buy likes… but more on that later.
2. Online Tools
– FOHR Card
If you follow bloggers or are a blogger, you’ve seen this on some of your peers post a picture of their FOHR scorecard. In short, being verified on FOHR means that you have an authentic following. If you’re curious about FOHR and want to learn more, click here
– Social Blade
This website lets you see your Instagram score, which is weird and I don’t like this one because I don’t understand how they “grade” you BUT it also lets you see serious spikes in peoples following.
You can see how many followers they average per day, if you’re wanting to really investigate. Unfortunately the graph cant show you why there are spikes, some could be loop giveaways or features on bigger pages, but if you see these big jumps happening monthly or weekly, you know something fishy is going on. The link for Social Blade is right here.
3. Lack of Creativity/Authenticity
My favorite way to come to the conclusion that someone is buying their followers is on accident through the realization that I’ve seen their content (or something eerily similar) before… so then I begin to compare the new post to the post I’ve seen before. We’ll call the unoriginal influencer “Blogger A” and the very popular, very authentic influencer that she copied from “Blogger B”. After further inspection Blogger A has too many similar posts and captions to Blogger B. This makes me cringe for two reasons…
1. Blogger B worked to curate that post while Blogger A tried to pass it off as her own. It’s modern day plagiarism.
2. Usually after comparing feeds for a few minutes you can see that Blogger A trying to be so much like Blogger B that you have now realized she isn’t even her own individual.
The lack in Blogger A’s creativity sparked my search into her very large following and lack of engagement which now makes me think she is a fraud. Is your mind blown or nah?
Also, while we’re on the topic of authenticity and creativity, ever feel like you’ve seen the same flat lay or blogger caption every week for the past year? It’s because you have. Once we see that it works for *Betty Blogs-A-Lot* in Belgium, we have to try it. Monkey see, monkey do and then we all lose followers because they’re sick of seeing the same things over and over.
The thing is the reason that Betty is so successful is because she’s original, she’s built her following based on her own ideas, not ideas she took from someone else to try to maintain a fake following.
*Sorry I got a little sidetracked there*
4. Following A Ton of People
One big sign that your fav (or rival, might as well as it like it is) bloggers or businesses are buying their followers is if they are following an outrageous amount of people. I’m talking like 4k and above (depending on how many followers they have).
Bots often go in and follow accounts and then either you stay following them or they unfollow them for you. Constant fluctuation and a large “following” number is definitely a red flag for using follower bots.
Which brings me to my best point…
5. The Follow/Unfollow Game
It’s literally the devil of the blogging world. They follow you, you return the favor because their feed is cute and then BAM! 5 days later… UNFOLLOWED. Again, you return the favor and send a bloggerific “F U and unfollow them right back.
If this happens once, they’re probably not using a bot, they’re just assholes. HOWEVER if you start to notice a pattern… it’s happening a few times monthly, maybe even twice in one week. This is a sign of a bot.
Actually, a local hair salon that ripped me off once TWICE on extensions by claiming they were virgin human hair (they were neither) uses a bot. Realistically why would 25k people want to look at hair that looks all. the. same.
They playthe follow and unfollow game constantly. She was getting called out about it so often that she took to her story to tell everyone what was going on… soon after realizing she admitted to buying followers, it was deleted. As we all know though, you can delete your post but my screenshot will last forever.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST! How do we tell if people are not only buying followers, but likes too?
If the blogger or business in question gets say, 1400 likes on a picture, but only 6 comments… nope. Those likes were bought. There is no way that 1400+ people liked your picture, but only 6 felt compelled to comment.
That’s not really how Instagram works…
Another thing to keep an eye out for is dramatic drop or spike in the number for likes from picture to picture. Again… if you’re getting 1400 likes on one picture and 250 on the next it’s not the algorithm, it’s that you bought likes on one picture but not the other.
The last thing to look at when it comes to likes, is how quickly they get them. Often times people sign up for “automatic likes” to try to jumpstart the algorithm (it actually hurts more than it helps by the way). You’ll usually notice that these people get a set number likes in the first few minutes and don’t gain too many more after that.
Click on the link to see who liked the pictures, you’ll notice a lot of bot accounts with no posts of their own and often no profile picture either…
That’s all for today!
In conclusion, the point of this, again, was definitely not to expose anyone, it was to educate. I want other bloggers and businesses to stop comparing themselves and looking up to people and companies who aren’t authentic and don’t deserve it. Also, I want you all to be conscious of where you’re spending your money.
Social media can be a great advertisement, but it can also be false advertisement. Stay woke.
You become who inspires you, make sure it’s the right person.
“Trying to be unique feels manufactured and inauthentic. True creativity comes from being authentic.” –George Lizos