Instagram Likes, Views, Follows, Comments, Regrams. You name it; they’re all for sale on the web’s not-so-underground social media black market.
As Instagram has become prime marketing and advertising real estate, the more brands have been tempted to buy those likes to compete with rivals who have large followings.
But artificially inflating your engagement numbers is not only a waste of time and money; it can also harm your business.
How? Gaming the system can actually decrease your engagement and destroy your reputation by creating a spammy presence that makes a bad impression of would-be followers and potential customers.
If you plan to buy Instagram likes and followers to fool your audience as part of your Instagram strategy, it’s time to rethink that approach.
In this post, we’ll show you -with an exclusive experiment– why you should NEVER BUY Instagram followers, and we suggest a few tried-and-true tactics to build your brand the authentic way, so you will NOT be tempted to BUY Instagram likes!
Why Brands Buy Instagram Likes
Whoever said, “Money can’t buy you friends” obviously hasn’t been on social media lately.
Just type “Buy Instagram likes” into Fiverr or perform a simple Google search for “Instagram likes.”
You’ll see hundreds of results for different services promising likes as cheap as free or -on average- $0.01 each ( usually in a package of 100 likes for $1).
Why? The reason is simple: Engagement is important, and likes are critical to Instagram success.
Under Instagram’s new algorithm, engagement is the most important metric used to determine any post’s popularity.
That means, the more likes and comments your posts get, the more people will see them.
This is because Instagram decides what to place at the top of feeds based on users’ past engagement (which gives insight into their interests).
Just like purchasing followers on Instagram, buying likes is also viewed by many as the ideal solution for those who lack the time and know-how to build their presence.
So, many brands seeking to have their posts seen by a larger audience are using this shortcut to getting a quick boost in engagement and view it as a risk worth taking.
Blame it on the power that likes have on Instagram.
But the fact is that Instagram bots can pose a serious risk to your account.
For example, let’s say that you’re handling Instagram marketing for an up-and-coming clothing brand, and decide to post a video of a model showing a stylish outfit on Instagram using the hashtag #outfitinspiration to target a fashion-conscious audience with the hope of getting user engagement.
If your post happens to get a bunch of likes, that will increase its chances of competing with other posts that use similar hashtags. And if you’re lucky, that post could be chosen to appear in Instagram’s Explore section.
The Explore tab, which can find be found by clicking the magnifying-glass symbol on the bottom navigation menu, is a compilation of posts on different topics that you’ve liked — and posts liked by accounts you regularly interact with.
Since Explore shows users posts that their followers like in each topic channel, it’s an effective way for businesses to reach a new audience.
Even so, the reality is, if you buy likes on Instagram you can end up sabotaging your own marketing strategy.
Why You Should Never Buy Instagram Likes
We get it. On the surface, having a ton of likes (even if they’re bought) seems to be valuable, but it only actually works if you’ve earned them through organic tactics.
That’s because although the appearance of more engagement and popularity in the form of likes may have some short-term benefits — like impressing real users and getting some of them to follow you — fake likes could undermine future organic or paid campaigns.
Here’s how :
It Makes You Look Shady:
If your real followers discover many of your likes are bogus, you will turn off existing or potential customers, who will avoid doing business with you.
Think about it: if you don’t trust your brand enough to attract real people, why should they?
Instagram Will Punish You:
If Instagram discovers that you have bought likes, they will be removed from your posts.
And if you’re a repeat offender, you could have your Instagram account shadowbanned or banned outright, which will also permanently block your username, meaning you won’t be able to recreate your account.
In the most serious cases, Instagram could restrict your IP address from accessing the Instagram app and website.
Fake Likes Do Not Equal Real Business:
No matter how many likes your posts show, paid engagement never results in real business.
At best, they do little more than making your brand appear to be more popular than it actually is.
Unlike real people, likes from fake followers (bots or lines of programming code) can never buy whatever you sell, or become brand advocates.
Still not convinced that you should never buy likes, or don’t think you’ll get caught? Keep on reading.
In November 2018, Instagram started removing “inauthentic” likes, followers, and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.
Following in the footsteps of similar crackdowns on Facebook and Twitter that purged tens of millions of fake accounts, the photo- and video-sharing platform banned paid-for likes and followers, and began using artificial intelligence tools to police phony interactions in an effort to restore trust among users and advertisers.
Instagram’s machine-learning is pretty good, so think twice about taking the risk.
Besides, your followers (and competitors) can tell that you’ve bought Instagram likes.
- If your likes-to-followers ratio on any post seems too high or, you have a disproportionate number of likes to comments, it’s a potential red flag that you buy likes, since it’s easier and cheaper to buy fake likes than fake followers or comments.
- If the accounts that liked your posts have profiles that show little activity in the form of posts, have few followers of their own, are missing a profile photo or haven’t been updated in ages, they may be accounts specifically created for brands who buy likes.
- If any like-buying services follow your account, it’s a dead giveaway that you buy likes, because these operations openly and widely advertise the fact that they sell Instagram likes (even right in their Instagram profile).
Don’t Buy Instagram Likes. Do These things Instead.
Instagram leads social media as a place where people engage brands.
A Forrester study showed that Instagram stands at the top of the heap when it comes to brand engagement. Instagram users’ interactions with businesses on the platform is ten times higher than Facebook, a crazy 54 times higher than Pinterest, and an unreal 84 times higher than Twitter.
Instagram’s in-house research shows that roughly half of all Instagram users follow at least one brand on the platform, and about 60 percent of its users say that they learned about new products or services there.
Instead of relying on a cheap gimmick to increase your Instagram engagement, create a long-term Instagram strategy to organically build your brand in an authentic way.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Create Engaging Content
Instagram is a visual platform, and visual content tends to outperform text and other forms of content.
So, work hard to create aesthetically pleasing content that:
What does this exactly mean?
Here’s what you must include in each of the four different kinds of content we just mentioned:
Content that Informs must: Tell your audience about something they didn’t know
- News – The latest local, national or international happenings in your field, industry or sector
- Research & Analysis – Research in a specialty area that explores a particular subject or area
- Shared Content – Interesting articles, stories other relevant content from around the Web
Content that Educates must: Teach your audience how to do something specific
- How-to Guides – Step-by-step manuals on how to accomplish something
- Tutorials – Teaching materials in the form of a series of photos or instructional videos
- Reviews – Overviews of products or services to help with purchase decisions
Content that Inspires must: Urge and uplift your audience, filling them with emotional spirit
- Inspiring Imagery – Fashion, food, homes, gardens and travel photos/videos
- Personal Stories – Anecdotes about someone’s life to create feelings of empathy
- Opinions – Strong, thought-provoking perspectives on a particular topic
Content that Entertains must: Allow your audience to pass its time in an emotionally fulfilling way
- Entertainment News – Celebrity-focused photos, stories, gossip and other content
- Mental Tests – Quizzes, trivia and brain-teasers
- Humor – Breaking up the monotony with things that are funny (we’ll discuss this more later)
2. Optimize Photos
Since you know you should regularly post engaging content and that photos get more likes than videos, here are a few ways to get the most out of your photo posts:
Put your best face forward.
Humans are social creatures, and faces allows us to form emotional connections with others. So, it comes as no surprise that photos with faces receive 38% more likes and 32% more comments than photos without faces.
Make captions work harder with mentions.
Mentioning the handles of other Instagram users pays dividends by helping you make new connections. Also, posts that mention others’ user handles in captions have been shown to get 56% higher engagement , according to a Simply Measured study.
Tag your location.
Once you’ve posted the best possible image (probably a picture of someone’s face) and have written an engaging caption with relevant hashtags, be sure to add a location tag, since research from the same study shows that posts with tagged locations get 79% higher engagement than those without.
3. Strategically Use Hashtags
Hashtags are among the best tools for organically increasing visibility and driving engagement of your Instagram posts. Use them liberally but wisely.
Although each Instagram post allows up to 30 hashtags, fewer may be better since overusing hashtags can confuse readers or appear spammy.
Rather than using general hashtags with high competition (like #travel or #MondayMotivation), it’s better to opt for more specific hashtags (think #NYCtravels or #YogaQuotesoftheDay). The reason is, the narrower the scope of the hashtag, the more engaged the users tend to be.
When searching for hashtags on Instagram, you’ve no doubt seen the grid of “Top Posts” that appear at the top of the results page.
These nine chronological posts, which are continually updated, are tied to trending hashtags that “show you some of the most popular posts that were tagged with that hashtag,” according to Instagram.
Getting into the Top Posts of a hashtag can result in a ton of exposure. So how do you get your posts to land there? Instagram’s algorithm takes a handful of things into account, including the level of engagement (likes and comments) a post receives, how quickly the post is engaged by users and the popularity of the hashtag being used.
4. Engage Users Daily
Remember, one of the basic rules of social media is that engagement fuels engagement.
Translation: The more you interact with other Instagram users, the more you increase your exposure and visibility, thus your chances of being noticed.
That means you should take some time every day to engage with users.
Start by responding to every comment left on your posts — unless you already have a huge following that makes it hard to do (if you’re considering buying likes, you probably don’t).
Like and comment on the content other users post, especially that of accounts similar to yours, those that are in some way related to your industry or niche or individual users with an interest in your products or services.
But to have success, it’s key to target the right accounts for interaction.
4 Ways to find accounts to engage with:
Look for users in your space by searching for certain words or phrases.
Just enter them in the search field, then select the ‘People’ option, and the results will include keywords that appear in account bios. To make sure you get the most relevant results, be sure to enter keywords that are as specific as possible.
Search for hashtags relevant to your line of business to discover related accounts and content.
The effort of researching hashtags comes with the added benefit of providing you with a list of related tags to take your searches even deeper.
Keep an eye on Instagram’s recommendations of content that may interest you, or relevant categories “For You.”
These appear along the top of the screen when you tap the search magnifying glass icon in the Instagram app or use the field to search for terms on the Web.
Target the competition’s followers for engagement by going to competitors’ profiles and tapping ‘Followers.’
Also, check out the accounts of users who comment and like competitors’ posts. Then, go start liking and commenting on their posts (in a genuine, meaningful way, of course). Some will start following you and engaging your content.
5. Include a CTA with Every Post
Calls-to-action (CTAs) should not be limited to Instagram ads and profiles. Your post captions should invite engagement by asking or promoting your followers and target audience to take action and interact with you.
One of the best ways to get engagement is by simply asking a question or inviting sharing or discussion. Consider things like:
- Which one do you like?
- What is your favorite _____ ?
- What do you think about _____ ?
- Would you rather _____ or _____ ?
- Who would you like to _____ with?
- Tag someone who loves _____ .
- Tag a friend who loves _____ .
Other effective CTAs include asking people to click the link in your bio for more information, to download an item, or to sign up for something.
More engagement will translate to more likes and comments, and people will spend more time viewing your posts, all of which could also help you to get into Top Posts.
6. Host a Giveaway or Contest
As an occasional, short-term strategy, giving away your products or services (or something else your target audience would love) through an Instagram giveaway or contest is a great way to get likes, gain followers, increase comments, and maybe even attract new customers.
To supercharge your efforts, partner with a related brand or influencer. This will allow you to promote your Instagram giveaway to both audiences, extending its reach.
Start by seeking out potential partners (be sure to check to see if they actually have real followers and engagement), then plan a giveaway where Instagram users can win merchandise if they follow you and your partner, and tag their friends in the comments of the post announcing the giveaway — which will help spread the word about the event while driving engagement.
Try to come up with a unique giveaway twist.
Frontier Airlines decided to give away two round-trip tickets to Jamaica with a seven-night stay at an all-inclusive resort. To enter, users had to follow Frontier on Instagram, take a video of them surprising family or a friend, and share their submission with a branded hashtag, while tagging the company.
7. Incorporate Humor
Information overload makes it easy for posts to get lost in a sea of content. Injecting a little humor into your Instagram posts will help you capture the attention of users and stand out from feed noise.
According to a BuzzSumo study, laughter ranked as the second most popular emotion evoked by content.
In addition to evoking a feel-good response, humor humanizes your brand, while inspiring trust, since it tends to be honest.
So when done properly, incorporating humor into your Instagram strategy will help you form an emotional connection with your audience and bring a little fun to their daily lives.
To make your brand’s foray into humor memorable and authentic, think of ways to regularly weave fun into your posts to entertain your followers and increase likes and other engagement.
Three great ways to use humor are:
Posting funny imagery.
Find and post hilarious photos and videos that make people laugh.
Creatively using puns.
Come up with witty puns related to your industry or specific products or services.
Popping it up.
Borrow or play on lines from a popular movie or lyrics from hits song (pop culture references often resonate with users ).
Of course, humor comes with its risks, so it’s best to steer clear of controversial topics, inappropriate and insensitive comments, and mean-spirited jokes.
While it may sound tempting on the surface, the truth is that by buying Instagram likes you will do your brand more harm than good, and it could even cost you valuable business and partnerships in the future — and violate Instagram’s Terms of Service, placing you at risk of having your Instagram account shut down.
Doing things the right way requires much more effort and doesn’t provide instant gratification. But not only will you see your legitimate following grow, but you will also build trust in the process.
Instead of trying to pay your way into popularity, follow the practical tips we gave you in this post and these other tested and proven Instagram marketing and advertising strategies.
You’ll be well on your way to getting more likes and comments to increase your engagement numbers and set your brand up for long-term success.
For more insight into why it’s not a good idea to buy likes and followers on Instagram (and for those of you that only trust numbers), keep on reading, in the post below we present the results of an experiment to get at the truth about the practice.
Remember the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
What do you think? Did you give in to the temptation of buying Instagram likes? How was your experience? Share your thought in the comments below!
Buying Instagram Followers? Our Experiment Reveals The Truth…
Let’s be real—buying followers on Instagram is very tempting.
When every blogger and mom-and-pop store seem to have more followers than you, with hundreds of people blowing their comments and engagement rates through the roof, how are you supposed to compete?
With Instagram becoming one of the top new sales platforms for e-commerce, the temptation to buy followers has never been stronger.
Get more followers, and even if they’re “fake”—the thinking goes—real people will take notice and start to shop in your store.
Buying Instagram followers could be a way to “growth hack” this new and incredibly powerful channel.
But does this theory hold any water? We set up an experiment to find out.
So, What’s the Deal with Buying Followers?
Buying followers generally falls into two categories:
A company makes a bunch of fake pages, and then they “follow” you.
The bad news is that Instagram has been known to crack down on fake accounts, plus the only thing it does is inflate your follower count. We didn’t test this tactic out—since the “followers” are shell accounts, they clearly aren’t going to drive revenue or engagement for your business. It’s also an easy way to get banned.
A company uses a bot that automatically follows/likes accounts and then unfollows them.
Within this cycle, people will see that your account followed them, check out your page, and give you a follow. This technique works because it plays off common Instagram etiquette—follow me, and I’ll follow you back—but here the other account gets unfollowed after a few days. You can choose how fast you want the bot to work, but it’s generally faster than what your crazy-dedicated intern could do on a few energy drinks.
Alternatively, bot automation where bots will like comment and follow based on hashtags or geolocation will be fees ranging from $2.99 per day to $99.99 for 30 days.
We decided to go with the latter of the two options because it was more likely to actually work as a method of increasing your brand’s social media strength, given that our followers wouldn’t just be a bunch of empty accounts.
Laying Down The (Experimental) Law
The experiment would be relatively straightforward.
We already had a real Instagram account with a store—Not Your Girl Shop—attached.
We’d taken note of our Instagram results (followers gained, engagement on our posts, etc.) and also had a variety of metrics from how well we converted those people to visitors to customers on Shopify.
Then, we’d ramp it up. We’d pay for a bot to do the work of getting followers for us—at super speed.
We’d compare the results from our bot-following phase with our natural results, and finally get some answers as to whether or not buying followers is worth it.
We are going to measure:
- Follower Count
Running The Experiment
Step 1: Making our Instagram Account
We knew that the experiment would have to have a good Instagram attached. We followed our own advice for setting up a good Instagram account and made the Not Your Girl Instagram, scheduling pictures that hit on the aesthetic we were going for. Not Your Girl is curated to appeal to edgy, fashion-focused millennials.
All the images are high quality, and we posted regularly, but not excessively—about once per day. The Instagram is linked to an online shop where you can buy some branded Not Your Girl gear and a few other items.
We also used a bunch of hashtags on each post, to help the organic aspect of our growth. We used the same hashtags throughout the entire experiment, to keep everything but our follower-gaining tactics consistent.
Step 2: Gaining Instagram Followers – The Real Way
Outside of using hashtags to tap into our potential audience, we followed pretty much best practices for gaining followers the usual way. We looked at accounts that had a similar aesthetic to Not Your Girl, and went into their followers. We then followed some of their followers and liked some of their posts.
Those users then saw that we had engaged with them, and hopefully followed us back.
We didn’t go in and comment on posts or DM any of the people we followed, because we wouldn’t have been able to keep that consistent with our bot.
Step 3: Gaining Instagram Followers – The Bot Way
We temporarily stopped gathering new followers and posting before we switched over to buying followers. This gave us a nice clean break when we went back to look at our results — there is no overlap at all between our bot results and our human results.
There are a lot of bots and services out there you can use to buy followers on Instagram. These types of services are abundant, and often seem pretty fake. We used Boostgram, which claims to help you fully automate your account and give you “real followers, likes, and comments.”
It’s pretty easy to set up: you link your Instagram account with Boostgram in their dashboard, choose some quick settings, like how fast you want the bot to run, and you start “generating” followers.
The generation process is pretty much the same as what you would do yourself (find, follow, unfollow) but much faster. With Boostgram, we targeted people following four popular stores that have the same target audience as Not Your Girl.
There are a few more targeting options on Boostgram (gender, location), but we kept ours targeting to just those four stores.
After setting up our account on Boostgram, we were almost ready to go. The monthly cost for Boostgram is $99 and up, so we had to take care of footing the bill, and then we let Boostgram run and waited for the bot to do its thing.
Bot or Not? The Results Of Our Experiment
Our regular follower acquisition ran from July 2nd to August 13th, and the bot follower acquisition ran from November 23rd to December 19th. In that time, the regular method gained 401 followers, and the bot gained 111.
Since the regular method ran longer, it makes sense that it would gain more followers. However, the regular method gained an average of 9.3 followers per day, while the bot method gained an average of 4.1.
It is worth noting that, at the very beginning of the Not Your Girl Instagram, we had three days of +20 follower gain. Though this skewed the regular method up a little bit, the regular method clearly beats the bot when it comes to acquiring followers, even though the bot was “working faster” than a human. It is worth noting though that there is time saved with the bot.
If you look at the gray bars above, it is again clear that the regular method beats the bot method.
The average likes per day for the bot doesn’t crack 100, but the regular method is garnering over 200 likes a day—that’s double the likes.
Comments are a similar story.
For the regular method, we cut off the first day because the first day was an outlier and skewed our graph, which is why this starts on the 3rd of July instead of the 2nd.
The regular method was pushing ten comments/day, and the bot method hovered around four comments/day, so, once again, the regular method gave roughly twice the results as the bot method.
Engagement rate is so important when using Instagram—its per-follower engagement rate is 4.21%, calculated using 1.5+ mil interactions over 160 Instagram posts. This is 58 times higher than Facebook or Twitter. And with Facebook now using its algorithm in our Instagram’s feeds, engagement matters more now than ever.
While yes, buying fully “fake” accounts isn’t what’s happening here (the bot is following real people), our engagement still sharply decreased via such an automated tool.
It’s always worth having your eye on your Instagram engagement rate.
To do this, combine the number of likes and comments on a post and divide by how many followers you have:
While we didn’t rake in the dough with either campaign, there was a definite difference in number of customers who visited our web store from our Instagram when we used the bot and when we didn’t.
The regular method averaged between 15 and 20 visits a day to our online shop.
Meanwhile, the bot averaged between five and ten visitors a day. Again, regular outperformed the bot.
And the trend just continues.
The regular method actually drove interested customers to our shop—ones that put items in their cart and purchased. The bot, meanwhile, only had one person put an item in their cart.
What this shows is that the types of people who were following our Instagram and visiting our shop during the regular method were people who were actually interested in our product, which is exactly what you want when you’re building a follower base on social media.
All purchases during the experiment were made during our regular method time frame.
With the regular method, we got consistent sales throughout the month or so of the experiment. However, the bot once again disappointed.
“There were no sales during this time,” is something you never want to see as a business and a massive demerit for the bot.
We can also say that having more followers doesn’t necessarily mean getting more followers, at least not if the difference is a few hundred people.
Although social proof can be a powerful marketing force, we gained more followers starting our Instagram from zero using the regular method than we did starting out with 1,000 using the bot method.
Maybe there would be a difference in follower increase if Not Your Girl suddenly had 100,000 followers, but at the rate that our bot was going, it would’ve taken decades to get us there.
Here’s the takeaway: When you’re starting a new social media account for your business, build social proof by having engaged customers and authentically connecting with people who follow you.
You Can’t Bot Your Way To A Business
Automatically following and liking accounts was the epitome of a quick fix. It got us followers, comments, and “engagement”—but only on a vanity level. It took no work; we just pressed a button, and it started happening.
But was it worth it?
We didn’t sell any merchandise during the period of buying followers on Instagram (via the bot).
We weren’t going out and engaging with potential fans of the shop and trying to get them to follow us back—we were relying on the bot to bring us customers.
And our Shopify metrics tell a dark story about just how much these botted followers cared about our business.
Why Did The Bot Fail?
Why the bot performed worse than the regular method could come down to a number of things.
- The bot can’t discern who might follow you back.
If it went into, for example, Forever 21’s followers, it can’t tell which followers are bots, brand ambassadors, inactive accounts, etc. that won’t follow you back.
- People can tell we used a bot and were put off by it.
They might have poked around the Not Your Girl Instagram and discovered a high followers to following ratio, or the bot could’ve liked three pictures in rapid succession, tipping off an Instagram user that we weren’t really engaging with them.
- Our targeting wasn’t quite right.
Perhaps followers of H&M’s Instagram just didn’t want to follow us or buy our clothes.
- It unfollows too quickly.
If someone doesn’t check their Instagram every day, they would have missed the bot following and unfollowing them.
Elbow Grease Makes the Difference
Get on Instagram. Post every day. Get followers. Cash out—that’s how building a business on social media works, right?
Karen Horiuchi of Glambot disagrees.
Although an impressive following on Instagram is nice to have and gives the appearance of success, what really matters is money in the bank.
An e-commerce startup needs to focus on revenue through conversion. Survive first, then flaunt later.”
Karen Horiuchi – CEO, Founder at Glambot
Flaunt later? That seems too easy for someone who’s already succeeded on social media to say!
But it’s true.
Building a brand on social media isn’t about getting more followers than everyone else, it’s about getting into a niche market and building connections with real people that appreciate your product and—most importantly—are willing to spend money on it.
While there’s a lot that technology can do, for now, a robot still can’t find that sweet spot without any help from humans.
Interaction with organic followers is the best way to learn about your audience as well.
Whether it is through the comments on your pictures or visiting their Instagram pages, learning what your followers are truly interested in can help you further define your niche in the market.
Creating a rich, engaged follower base takes hard work—work that will pay off in actual dollars and cents if you give it the time it needs.
Even though it may seem daunting to set out a plan to increase your follower count on Instagram, a little strategic planning, and some elbow grease will get you the followers—and customers—of your dreams faster than a bot ever could.
What do you think? How do you grow your follower base on Instagram? Have you ever tried using a bot? Did it work for you? Share your story with us!