Many of you may remember when the Instagram update came out. They infamously changed the order of posts from chronological, to who you interact with the most. This caused widespread outrage, with Instagram defending themselves, saying that the benefit was that you would see your friends posts instead of companies. However, this was a huge hit for brands as they were pushed down in the feed. Many businesses rely on Instagram and Facebook for sales, and this new development meant that they could struggle to bring in customers, and therefore revenue. And thus a new enemy entered the scene. Rouge companies began emerging, that had millions of bots at their disposal. They sell you a package, designed to deliver a set amount of likes and/or followers to interact on your posts.
This seemed like a great deal to companies that were struggling with the new updates. They get money, and you get exposure, seems like a great deal right?
There are a plethora of reasons why using bots to promote yourself or your brand is bad. Namely, the ethics of it and lying to your customers. A brand that has lots of followers may entice people in, thinking that they are a safe company to purchase from. However, if all of their likes and followers are fake, or at least a large portion of them, they are lying to their consumers and this can destroy a brand once found out.
It also brings down your overall engagement. If a page has over a million followers (many of which are bots), but they are only getting a couple hundred likes on their posts (from authentic followers) its clearly a scam. Even with a huge amount of followers, a small amount of likes and comments mean you most likely won’t show up on feeds, or explore pages because your actual post engagement is bad.
If you run ad campaigns on Instagram or Facebook, which many businesses do, fake likes and followers will permanently damage this. Ads are normally targeting people that have the same interests as your page followers. If a brand sells horse products, and has lots of horse followers, then Facebook knows to send ads to people that also have horses. But if most of your followers are bots in China, then your ad campaigns will be sent out to accounts like them. This means you will be targeting the wrong people, and most likely will see no conversions. Now, Instagram has removed the ‘like’ count altogether, which eliminates the need to buy likes as no-one will even see how many you have.
Not only is it bad on the consumer side of things, but it can have serious repercussions. Both Instagram and Facebook crack down hard on these issues. Being caught buying likes and followers will often get you suspended, or banned. Even if you manage to get away without either of these two outcomes, you will most likely be ‘shadow-banned’. This is where you think that your page is fine, but it has actually been put on a watchlist. Instagram and Facebook will no longer send out your posts to non-followers, and you will not come up on the explore pages either. Even when someone specifically searches up your page, you may not even rank. If you are using hashtags, you will not show for them, essentially deeming them useless.
Buying likes and followers is not only bad ethically, but can ruin a brand if they are caught. Although you may experience an initial surge of engagement, this will not help you long term. These bots will not engage with your content, and you run the risk of being permanently banned from social media. It is much safer to work hard to build your brand organically, through regular posting, hashtags, and other methods. This way, you not only build a community, but your posts will get likes and comments from actual people, which will grow your reach authentically.