Let's Talk About Instagram
A few months ago I snapped. I became so frustrated and disheartened with Instagram and seeing people I follow buy likes and followers that I lost my shit. If you watched my insta stories, you probably saw me go on a bit of a rant after a company messaged me saying "hope you noticed and loved the likes we bought on your most recent photo, let us know if you want more!"
As someone who's spent the past 3.5 years growing my following by working hard and being honest, this infuriated me. Thanks to sites like social blade and influence database, shady Instagram activity like this was the last thing I wanted flagging my account.
In the wake of my frustration I wrote a LONG and nasty blog post and oh boy was it therapeutic. But I felt better just writing it and in the end, I didn't post it. Then I saw Lauren from This Renegade Love publish a post about shady instagram activity and it fired me up again but still, I was hesitant to publish my post. Fast forward a few months and someone who I admire greatly on Instagram started sharing her frustrations on her stories too. Erin Sousa is a social media powerhouse who I have so much respect for and just last week she broke it all down on her blog.
She covers how to spot someone who's bought fake likes and followers, what real engagement should look like (1% is TOTALLY NORMAL ENGAGEMENT, 5% is pretty great, if you're seeing higher than that on other pages with business accounts, it might be worth looking into a bit more) and some of the grey areas such as comment pods, large loop giveaways and bots.
If you have a minute I highly suggest giving her post a read. In the end my hope is that this post acts as an eye opener and starts some conversation. Look, I get it. Instagram can be incredibly disheartening. It's tough to watch others climb up the ranks so quickly through shady methods while engagement with honest accounts seems to be on the decline thanks to ever changing algorithms and Instagram trying to get business accounts to sponsor their content.
My hope is that this post educates people and causes both individuals and brands to dig deeper when they're looking at the account of an 'influencer'. If someone has 200 photos and 100K+ followers, chances are that's not legit. If you see large follower boosts on Social Blade, maybe these instagrammers are boosting their following and buying followers when running a giveaway to try to hide it. If engagement is way too high, question it.
So to those who want my two cents - here's a snippet of that unpublished post on why I'm begging everyone to stop buying followers and let's get back to being real....
IT CREATES AN UNREALISTIC EXPECTATION FOR GROWTH AND LIKES - WITH BRANDS AS WELL AS FOLLOWERS AND NEW BLOGGERS
As a new blogger starting out, to see someone who's been blogging for 5 months, has 200 photos and over 30,000 followers is going to set incredibly unrealistic expectations for growth. It will only leave those newer accounts feeling discouraged, inadequate and likely to buy likes and follows to "keep up".
It also tips the scales with brands and PR agencies. Uninformed brands looking for "maximum exposure" are more likely to choose an account with more followers or likes, without being aware that those likes and followers aren't legitimate. A smaller and more engaged audience is far more powerful than a large following that's not authentic or engaged. Trust.
IT MISREPRESENTS YOUR INFLUENCE - WHICH WILL HURT THE INDUSTRY IN THE LONG RUN
Let's say a brand decides to work with 5 influencers, 3 of whom have bought their likes and followers. The brand pays these influencers, sends them product and waits for the results only to find that very few people came to them as a result of the campaign. Behind the scenes this is obvious because bots and spam accounts won't do a company that pays you any good. But the brand doesn't know this. And as this happens more and more brands will say "working with influencers doesn't work", and they'll stop working with influencers because they're not seeing results. So buying followers might gain you more contracts with brands but those contracts won't be successful for the brand and therefore over time, the industry will suffer. Not to mention, someone who's bought followers for a couple hundred bucks and hasn't spent years and hours and hours working away at their blog is likely to value their time less, therefore charging less, in turn undercutting those who have worked harder to build a legitimate influence and will end up winning contracts over those bloggers because they'll work for less. Boo.
LASTLY, IT'S STRAIGHT UP DISHONEST
And while certain brands and PR companies might not be aware right now I can guarantee if you're paying for likes and follows, other people are noticing. So play fair, please. When you buy your likes and followers it totally undermines what you're doing. It comes across as desperate and takes away from any messages you're trying to send through your blog or social channels.
I can't tell you how frustrating it is to spend so much time and work so hard on creating original content only to see someone with a poor quality photo get quadruple the likes. Like Lauren said in her post " I saw people with generic photos and boring captions get 800 likes and 300+ comments on every single post, a ratio that doesn’t add up. I began to ask myself if I should be doing the same thing, if this was just the way the game was played now and if you don’t get on board, you’ll just be left behind."
Whatever happened to "good things take time". And putting in hard work and effort to reap the rewards? I understand the frustration of starting out and how growth takes time but in the long run, being authentic and keeping it real will always pay off. I know bloggers who have less than 10,000 followers who blog full time because their audience is legitimate, engaged and their content is incredibly high quality, not to mention their blog traffic would knock the socks off of another bloggers traffic who has 100K+ followers.
So to the brands and PR companies out there - ask for stats. Draw up contracts. Ask to see google analytics and screenshots of demographics. It should be pretty obvious who's legit and who's not. Chances are if someone has 200 posts and 40,000 IG followers, they're not legit. (Although for sure I'll admit that if a large account shares your photo or Instagram makes you a featured account you can see growth like this but usually not.) Also, check their followers and who's liking their photos - it'll start to become pretty obvious who's legit and who's not. *Note: we all get spammy followers and likes, but the majority of the likes on a photo should not be from accounts that are blatantly robots or spam accounts that are used for people who've bought likes.
To the bloggers just starting and tempted to buy likes or followers please don't! Stay true to yourself. Work hard! Find your tribe and they'll support you. Put in the work, build relationships and promote one another. There are ways to grow in an authentic way and in the long run it'll pay off, I promise.
Lauren basically took the words out of my mouth so to quote her again "Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle. Put the time in. Treat this as a job like you would any other and WORK HARD. Don’t cut corners. Focus on improving your content and growing your skills. Be authentic. The results will come, guys. But don’t try and fake your way to the top, because you’ll only hurt yourself and your brand in the long run."
So on that note I'm asking us all to keep it real, be authentic and let's support one another. Be kind, play nice & happy Saturday
On another note, thanks Fohr Card for starting to set up industry standards in evaluating the validity of someone's following. My only question would be, does this spot the "BUY REAL FOLLOWERS" fake followers? I feel like it's a good start but some of the fake accounts look real - how do you tell the difference for this?! At least it's a start....