All joking aside, we get why it’s tempting. Maybe you’re starting a branded Instagram account from scratch and you want to make a better first impression. Or maybe you want to leverage your Instagram skills to earn some of the $5.8 billion dollars brands are spending on IG influencers in 2021.
On the other hand, maybe you’re reading this article because you’re on the brand side, and you want to know how to suss out which influencers have built up a valuable audience of real people who genuinely care—and which are going to take your budget without any ROI (return on investment) at all.
The question is: does buying Instagram followers really give you a head start on your Instagram strategy? And is it totally harmless? What do you risk when you do it (besides a clear conscience)?
To get a valid read on what’s up with fake Instagram followers in 2021, we decided to do an experiment. Read on to see what happened when we whipped out a credit card and bought the best Instagram followers money can buy.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
First, let’s take a step-by-step look at how to buy instagram followers. (After that, we’ll show you why it was a waste of time.)
Many fake Instagram follower suppliers have gone out of business in the last three years as Instagram continues to crack down on bots, trash accounts, and the fly-by-night operations that supply them.
Today, finding a reputable fake Instagram follower provider is like finding a trustworthy human organ salesman. It’s a black market. It’ll take some research to find a vendor that won’t a) steal your money or b) steal your identity. (Ok, I’m guessing on that second one, but it’s an educated guess.)
For this experiment, I decided to go with Famoid. (Keep reading to find out more about some of the other vendors I considered)
Either option will look obviously fake, but vendors offer this choice—i.e., a thousand followers at once, or 200 a day—to further the illusion that no one (including Instagram) will be able to tell that you bought your followers. Of course, anyone who looks will be able to tell in an instant, but more on that later.
For several reasons (including the fact that this article was due last week) I decided to buy mine all at once. Famoid sells 1,000 followers for $15.95. (In what currency? It doesn’t say! I guess it’ll be a fun surprise on my credit card bill!)
Of course there’s an upsell. For an extra $9.71 in mystery dollars, I decided to treat myself to 1,000 likes for my most recent 5 posts.
Again, the theory is that buying engagement will make it less obvious that your followers are fake. But, as you will see later: it will not. Just like the time I tried to pass my jimjams off as luxury athleisure on Zoom, there’s truly no way to hide this maximally lazy choice I have made.
Now, tell your service where to send their bots. No password necessary. Of course, it may feel scuzzy to give your credit card details to a random number company or gmail address, and that’s because it is scuzzy. I did it for science, but I certainly don’t recommend you do it.
I smashed that pay button at 3 PM, and Famoid promised me a turnaround time of 6 days, but within half an hour my followers started showing up. In an hour I had 39 followers. By 9AM the next day I had my 987 followers, as promised. (Of course, five days later that number had gone down to 933, but who am I going to complain to?)
Meanwhile, my paid likes took a while longer to show up, but by the next morning I had exactly 230 likes on each of the 5 posts I’d specified. (And 0 likes on the rest of my posts: totally normal!)
In conclusion: I got what I paid for. A boost in my vanity metrics that wouldn’t pass any nine-year-old’s sniff test. Plus, these followers have absolutely zero capacity for caring about my content, following my links, or buying stuff.
Where should you go if you, too, want to experience professional and personal shame, and possibly identity theft?
The answer to this question changes for obvious reasons: Instagram would like to keep its real users happy, so it spends time and effort getting rid of fakes. Fortunately, I poked around for those of you who are—despite all my nagging—still curious about this wretched dark-web of bot trafficking.
- GetInsta: according to its own marketing, GetInsta is “pretty good in all aspects.” However, this site creeped me out for two reasons. First, the “free trial” button is a dummy button that doesn’t work: even if you sign up for an account, paid is really the only option. And second, the PayPal form claimed my “email format is wrong” and pushed me to enter my credit card information directly into a text form on their website, instead. Reader, I did not do it.
- Takeaway: It might work, but it looks way too scammy for comfort.
- Stormlikes: The last time Hootsuite did this experiment, back in October 2019, Stormlikes was one of the services I used. Alas, they only sell “exclusive and real” likes now, and not followers.
- Takeaway: Doesn’t sell followers anymore. (What is an “exclusive like”?)
- Stormslike: “All services work great!” on Stormslike, including the provision of “real, high-quality” Instagram followers.” While I didn’t buy any followers from Stormslike this year, if this site has anything in common with Stormlikes circa 2019, the followers are neither real nor high-quality.
- Takeaway: Seems like it may work, though I didn’t try it. Price is standard at 1,000 fake followers for $16.49.
- Kicksta: This service promises to deliver followers through social media automation. While I’ve tried Instagram automation with other providers like Instamber, Instagress and Instarocket, I haven’t tried Kicksta yet and can’t vouch for it.
- Takeaway: This will be more work on your part than Stormslike or Famoid, and problematic for different reasons. That said, it may result in real followers IF you take the time to use it gently and respectfully. (But even then, the risk of annoying people is high.)
- Mr Insta: This year I did try Mr Insta’s trial offer of 25 free “real” followers. In order to get those “real” followers, I had to follow 10 accounts of Mr Insta’s choosing, probably other clients like me. (In my case, these included: a sandwich shop, a hair salon in Dubai, a baby influencer, and a guy named @brovaper). Sure enough, my 25 followers showed up right away (43 of them, actually). However, these followers were also obvious fakes, certainly not real by any stretch of the imagination.
- Takeaway: Way more effort for the same crappy fake followers. (No offense, @brovaper).
Source: Mr Insta
- Famoid: offering “100% exclusive, safe and natural methods,” I paid Famoid for 1,000 followers because, unlike GetInsta, they’re distinguished by a legitimate payment system.
- Takeaway: Delivers fake followers pretty fast for $15.95.
- Quick Fix: Not gonna lie, my favourite way to buy followers and likes is this nice Belgian vending machine. Alas, to get to it you will need to track down whatever art gallery it is currently exhibited in.
- Takeaway: Cheapest deal at 3 euros! Unfortunately, this service is actually just art made to interrogate our priorities under late capitalism.
Source: Dries Depoorter
It doesn’t cost a lot to buy Instagram followers. The sham accounts we bought averaged just north of $15 USD for ~1,000.
Of course, while the cost is low in dollars, the cost to your reputation and legitimacy is nerve-wrackingly high.
Yes, technically. Surprising no one, it turns out you can still buy fake Instagram followers in 2021. For a small sum, your phone will be flooded with notifications, and your favourite vanity metric will go up accordingly.
But if we ask a slightly different question—does buying Instagram followers work to make your account successful?—then the answer is no. Fake followers are bad for your analytics and your credibility.
Source: Three of @mrmausoleum’s very real-looking new followers.
There are plenty of easy tools that will show any dirty secrets to potential brand partners. As a growing influencer, the absolute worst thing you can do for your career is buy followers.
In fact, rather than buying them, most influencers are trying to get rid of their fake followers, in order to increase their engagement rates and improve their attractiveness to potential brands.
A profile that has fake followers is obvious to anyone who uses Instagram regularly.
A high follower count with no engagement to back it up is just, well, desperate. That means that any potential followers—real people who will actually engage with your posts—will notice, and be turned off.
For instance, the last time I bought followers (for science!!) the only comments I got were randos stopping by to roast me:
If you want to grow your Instagram audience, there are plenty of ways to find real human beings who will actually connect with your message, and engage with your content, and perhaps even buy your product.
If you want to grow your follower count, your job is to please your current followers. Engagement shows the Instagram algorithm that it should show your amazing content to new people, too.
Your potential followers are most likely to stumble upon your posts in two different places:
The bottom line is that your posts will only show up in these locations if they’re earning likes. Fortunately, we have a full guide on getting more likes on Instagram.
If the Instagram algorithm isn’t delivering the results you want, promote your Instagram page elsewhere. Even, perhaps, in real life.
- Link to Instagram from your website
- Ditto your newsletter
- Cross-promote via your other social media accounts
- Encourage customers in your store or restaurant to follow, post, and tag via a branded hashtag or a QR code on your menu.
If you’re itching to spend that $15 USD somewhere, you could run an ad campaign on Instagram to draw eyeballs to your profile. Organic content is an integral part of any Instagram marketing strategy, but ads are one of the simplest ways to find your target audience at scale.
Grow your Instagram following the right way using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.