6 ways to spot if an account bought followers
*Because of the images, this post is best enjoyed on a desktop*
If you are new to the Instagram marketing machine, please be advised that there are a ton of fantastic creatives who have spent years developing their skills, gaining hundreds of followers, and working on their brand. But some users choose to advance in follower count in a quicker manner, as to fulfill some threshold obligations that some companies place before sending out PR merchandise, and offer to work with the users.
There is no judgement placed on any party, as my blog aims to be educational only. I do not personally care who bought how many followers or whether they did. If you've got the resources but don't have the time, that is an option you can consider, but there are many ways to see if a person purchased their followers. How?
1. Their ratio is off
You don’t need to do tough math to quickly see that if a person has 15,000 and only 100 likes per photo, something feels off. If an account takes time to build those relationships, the comments and likes should be growing alongside your follower count. Some people have more likes/comments per post with a certain following, some have less. But the consistency is the key. By looking at how the posts progressed, it’s easy to see if the “like” trend line is increasing through time or staying plateaued while the person magically boosted their followers. To give you an idea, at 3000 followers, I’d get about 150-200 likes per post. At 5000 it was about 300-450. At 7000 I am ranging anywhere from 400-700 likes. The most I’ve gotten so far is 917.
2. The photo quality doesn’t reflect the following size
The folks with the larger following have taken the time to develop (or purchase) their photography skills, create a theme for their page, and make a theme for the page that seems uniform and “on brand”. When you see a page with random photographs, very little aesthetic, a seeming disorder to the presentation but the follower count is growing, that person is either a celebrity or someone who purchased their following. Celebs as you know, are special in that they don’t need to be uniform. The rest of us artistic, creatives need to put forth presentable content so that we are worth following. If you spot that a user’s gallery just simply doesn’t have any creative or artistic elements, you should understand that they took the easier route to getting the followers.
To demonstrate what I mean by “photo quality” please see my old Instagram account. You can see that it’s got some “cute little photography” moments but do I qualify to be followed by tens of thousands of people for this kind of output? No. Not even close.
What is the narrative this account is trying to showcase? For whom could these posts be pleasing? What do you as a user get out of following this account? If these answers aren't clear, then this account is still in its building stages and the following count should reflect that.
3. The followers all look like bots
Take a quick look at the people who follow the user. Are they also influencers, are they created people who want to learn from the user, or are they private parts with either no profile pictures and who actually are not legitimate? You can start to get a feeling from who are the followers simply by scanning the follow list. As you can see from the photo below, the followers have jumbled up account names, no profile pictures, and most likely they are private. Also, most of them will either have no photos posted, one, or maybe 3-4 filled out but no more. It's an inactive account.
4. The follower demographic doesn't reflect the output of the account
In addition to point Number 3, you can quickly glance at what the account's followers look like. Let's say the account showcases lifestyle, travel, style, beauty. You'd expect the majority (certainly not all) of the followers to be interested in similar subjects, and appear to be similar. So if you'd click into some of the accounts, you'd see photos of vacations, cosmetics, style, interior design, food, etc. And you probably would expect them to be the same gender as the account holder, because why would hundreds of thousands of women follow a men's style account, and vice versa? So if I look at a user's followers, and they are all young men, who seem to look like they have no interest in style or fashion, with limited info on their accounts, it sets off a red flag.
5. The comments are all one worded or mostly emojis.
Just like it’s super easy to purchase followers, it’s also easy to buy likes and comments. But the comments you purchase will not be beneficial ones. They will be short space fillers that, while add to your engagement, don’t actially benefit you because they are fake and will not transfer over to different platforms, will not purchase your recommendations, and most likely will never even engage with your account in the future.
6. The amount of likes and comments significantly fluctuates from post to post
If one of their earlier photos has 100 likes, and then all of a sudden the next hanful of posts is up in the four, five, six hundreds, this should set off some red flags. Unless a person did something outside of Instagram, that would all of a sudden drive signficiant traffic to his/her account and posts, the growth should be gradual.
What about you? How do you spot if an account bought fake followers?