Social media marketing isn't a simple game of Likes and followers if you plan on being taken seriously as a business, building relationships with your customers, generating more leads and seeing real results.
There are tons of websites offering thousands of followers for a low cost, but a high a follower count means nothing if your audience isn't engaging with you. In the end, buying social media followers will hurt your brand more than the illusion of popularity you think you're creating.
I will admit that going to a business' social media channels and seeing a big follower number is impressive at first glance. Your social media channels are often the first line of contact between your customers and your brand - but who uses brands they don't take seriously or trust?
Besides creating a horrible first impression, the smoke and mirrors are a waste if you aren't getting your audience to actually interact with your posts.
What Buying Fake Followers Costs You
Not only will savvy professionals know what you're up to, but consumers are becoming more aware of what adds up to an account with a purchased following. At a time where being transparent is so important, your potential audience will turn away for this insult to their intelligence.
Buying your followers will cost your credibility.
Buying your followers will also cost you in audience interaction.
When you talk to a bunch of fake or inactive users guess what happens? Nothing. Your posts get no likes, or comments, and if they do it's mostly spam. How awful does it look to have 100,000 fans and two likes on a post? Ouch.
What's more, no interaction means your subsequent posts will have lower organic reach, as social algorithms take this as a sign that your content is not engaging.
What's the point in that? Why waste your time creating content that won't go anywhere past your fan Page?
A slew of purchased followers will absolutely muddy your metrics - although if you are spending money on your audience (in this way) then maybe metrics don't matter to you. But they do to any serious marketer, who wants results.
With your post reach affected by the bought members, any trace of a real audience behavior is clouded.
Customers and business
Without an organic audience to spread your content, no new eyes will see your brand, and no one will click on any links you put out there - so again what is the point of all this?
Getting marked as spam
Yes, any trace organic following may not ever see your posts because the way the algorithms are set up. Your channel essentially becomes spam, which, in turn, attracts more spam, and could eventually cause your channel to be suspended or removed permanently... another ouch.
Based on all of these reasons, buying followers is a big waste of time, energy, and money. Bottom line - if you're on social media to cultivate an audience, get traffic and results, stay away from buying followers.
If you have bought followers, don't wonder why your messages aren't getting shared, or your links get no clicks. If your accounts do get deleted for being spam, consider it a blessing in disguise as you can begin to build an organic audience the right way.
What to do if You've Already Purchased Fake Followers
Flushing fake followers is one of the most frustrating and time consuming processes. Most of the time it's easier to just start over, but if you can't there are ways to bring out real followers, or attract new ones.
There's a heap of third party tools that can help you identify and get rid of followers, but here are some more organic methods to help you bring out any real followers and attract new ones:
Stick to your content schedule
Keep putting out quality, brand-relevant content on a regular schedule.
Remain consistent and share quality content that will resonate with potential followers who will actually be interested in your brand or business.
Use relevant hashtags
Attract the right followers by using hashtags that are relevant to your content and brand.
Learn how to find hashtags that will work for your business here: How to Find the Right Hashtags for Your Brand or Business
Try influencer marketing
Influencer marketing can be a great way to expose your business to a relevant audience. Concentrate your efforts on getting the attention of one person or specific key players to help you build buzz and awareness about your brand, product or service.
Working with influencers can be cost-effective, and will help build organic brand awareness through simple campaigns like product demo's and account takeovers.
Okay, so the last thing you probably want to do is dump more money into channels where you've bought followers, but social ads can help you reach the right customers.
Social media ads offer very specific targeting - LinkedIn allows you to target specific groups, Twitter lets you target the followers of specific accounts and multiple hashtags, Facebook has the option to show your like campaign to friends of the people who already like your page. More recently, Facebook and Twitter have included custom audiences - using your list to target your customers and then serve your ads to other people who mirror your list. It's a little creepy, but very effective.
On Facebook you can also try using the audience restriction functions to define who you're reaching
Preferred Audience by Post
The Preferred Audience option enables Facebook to show your content to those who've expressed interests in line with the topics you cover in each individual post. You can choose up to sixteen interests - this won't limit reach, and should help your content get in front of audience members who'll be most responsive to your content.
Pages with over 5,000 likes will have Preferred Audience turned on automatically - for the rest, you'll have to dive into your settings to get the feature.
In you Facebook Page settings, look for "Audience Optimization for Posts" in the 'General'' menu and tick the check box. Click "save changes" and you'll be ready to roll.
Look for the little target circle under the field in which you write the text for your post. From there a lightbox will pop up where you can choose targeting criteria. Facebook will help you with general ideas, but you can get creative and target publications, other Pages, relevant companies etc.
Choose your interests click save. Now you can publish or schedule your post.
Page Preferred Audience
Just as you can choose a Preferred Audience for each post, you can also defined a preferred audience for your Page.
Again, head to your settings, but click on "Preferred Page Audience" on the left. You'll be able to choose your target audience's interests so your Page is more likely not be shown to those who care about the subjects you're posting about.
A fun extra with Preferred Audiences - you'll be able to see in your Page Insights which posts you selected a preferred audience for. You can then compare and see which posts drive more engagement and reach.
Remember to experiment with interest tags to gauge which ones work best for your business. Your posts with preferred targeting will have a different icon under "Targeting" column in post insights.
Clicking to get further insights will show a "Preferred Audience" insights tab so you can see how your targeting did.
I took this screenshot right after I put my post up, but your post will needs least 100 views before you can see the Preferred Audience insights.
Once you can see insights they'll look something like this:
Image via Social Media Examiner
Use Audience Restrictions
Unlike Preferred Page Audience, Audience Restrictions will only show posts to people that fit the criteria and interests you choose.
This works well for when you have location specific promotions and you don't want to bother the rest of your audience - the option shows your post only to those accounts that fall under restrictions you've set for each post.
Narrowing your audience down may feel a little counter intuitive, but hyper-segmentation enables you to create very specific content to appeal to individual sub-sets within your audience. This option came in super handy when I worked on experiential marketing campaigns which involved samplings in different regions across the U.S. - we used post targeting to let followers in specific regions know where sampling would be happening without disturbing the larger audience.
You'll find Audience Restrictions by clicking on the same little target button you do to choose the Preferred Audience, but this time you'll look under the "Audience Restriction" tab. Here you'll be able to restrict who sees your post by age, location, and language.
No good ever comes to people who pretend to be what they're not, and faking it till you make it clearly doesn't work either. Apply this train of thought whenever paying $5.00 for 10,000 followers becomes tempting.
Building an organic audience is hard work, but it's worth it when you start seeing your audience interact, drive traffic and build real leads.
This post originally appeared on Dhariana Lozano's blog.