In the modern age of social media, many brands gauge their success or failure on how many followers they gain, and retain on social media. Followers are akin to an audience, and having a larger audience will always benefit your brand, and sales.
Unfortunately, this formalized and public system of popularity has given rise to the exploitation of audience building, at the expense of small business budgets. Bots, fake followers, and mass follow/unfollow techniques have spoiled the idea that follower counts are an actual measure of success or influence.
Similar to the older game of “search engine optimization” gaming the social follower system has enriched many, and even arguably helped elect the President of the United States. Here are some techniques used by social media marketing “experts” that seek to exploit this system:
Bots – Unscrupulous tech providers will maintain networks of fake social media profiles that appear real. Write them a check, and they deploy this network to follow your brand lulling you into thinking that actual people, or potential customers are following you.
Mass Follow – Another technique involves following hundreds, or thousands of people each month, waiting for a time period and then unfollowing them. This encourages those you follow to follow you back, and when you unfollow some time thereafter, your left with a higher “follow” count than follower count. Rinse, repeat.
Hashtag Stuffing – Popular on Instagram, and semi-legitimate – stuffing each post with large amounts of hashtags allows your posts to appear when others are searching for those topics. This isn’t the worst technique, if the hashtags you use are relevant, however often times it’s abused and attracts non-relevant followers.
There is no amount of money you can pay a third-party to boost your search rank, social follower count, or even newsletter subscriber list legitimately without any involvement from you, or your staff. At best, the technique will “work” for a limited time, until Google, Facebook, Twitter or others catch on an update their algorithms, or possibly even kick you off the service (unlikely because the high #’s help their bottom line too). Most likely, it will simply be a huge waste of money and resources, and will leave you with an army of followers that might appeal to your vanity, but not your bottom line.
Your marketing efforts should be “organic”, which is the tech-equivalent of “real”. Post with your own voice, network with other brands naturally and you’ll find your “small” follower count will pay off more than an artificially boosted audience. Unless of course, you’re running a “pump and dump” scheme, or running for political office 😉