What does the average person do when trying to evaluate a brand or get a quick sense if something is good or worthy of their time? Yup, we tend to look at the number of followers and fans on social media. That’s just how we validate things in our celebrity-driven, popularity contest of a society.
As you would imagine, this creates a lot of pressure for independent artists to bump up those like and follow numbers to influence a favorable perception. After all, you want people to have a good impression when they land on your Facebook or Instagram accounts.
Especially when starting out as an indie artist, I know it can be very tempting to boost your social media numbers when it can cost as little as $5 on some third party websites. With it being such a huge business, buying fake followers for your social media is more accessible and easier than ever. Even for those who have been in the independent game for years, the thought may have crossed your mind at one point. It’s frustrating to not see your fan base grow at the pace you hoped for. As a last resort, fake followers feel like it can help get you over the hump.
As someone who has seen a client get caught for purchasing fake social media followers and have it blasted over the local news, DON’T DO IT! Why? Buying fake fans does more harm than good and the gamble is never worth the risk.
Please note: There are legitimate ways to pay money to increase fans and followers within the platform itself, but I’m referring to using shady third party sites and services.
My experience with fake social media followers
Although I won’t say any names, let’s just say a high profile client (not music related) I have worked with in the past was busted and ridiculed for purchasing fake social media fans. To be clear, it was not my idea nor would I ever support such a thing, but it was done without me knowing.
I wish I could dive into all the details because it was interesting to see the fall-out from behind the scenes. Not to mention seeing all the damage control that this organization had to do was quite amusing. How bad did it get?
It was a disaster. The integrity, trust and credibility of the organization were heavily scrutinized, which gave the competition a huge leg up. Yes, it even was discussed in the local news for a couple of weeks while they become a joke on social media. In addition to the mockery, it also racked up some big costs for reputation management. As you could imagine, what this organization hoped to accomplish did not succeed.
Here are the 4 reasons why buying fake fans and followers is not a good idea:
1. You will lose trust and credibility if you get caught
“Your music sucks so bad that you have to pay bots to like your songs?”
That’s the type of stuff you’ll read if you were to ever get caught faking the funk. Of course, this assumes you have a reputation in the first place for people to even want to make it a big deal. The more established you are, the bigger the risk and more fuel for the haters. Most likely, it won’t be as extreme as my example but still. It’s not like there’s a public wall of shame for people who got caught buying followers that get publicized for the world to see.
On the other hand, it would be an embarrassing situation to be in for your current fans. It could lead them to question other things about you. Did he really write that song? Is that really her singing? No matter how you slice it, buying fake fans shows how insecure, impatient and impressionable you are as an artist.
Just remember that being authentic is huge in a culture driven by superficiality. To me, authenticity is such an important branding element that you do not want to risk compromising.
2. You will dilute the reach and engagement rates of your social following
The more technical reason why you don’t want phony fans is it just fills up space but does not do anything. Well, what it does end up doing is diluting your reach and engagement rates.
What more and more people are starting to learn is that there are algorithms in place that determine who sees your posts in their newsfeed. Facebook use to be the most well known for it as it’s been going on for years now, but Instagram and Twitter have adopted some form of it more recently. For example, if you post something on Facebook, only 1% – 2% of your fans will see your post organically. With fake accounts liking your page, you make it harder to reach actual people who like your music.
The other side of it is the lack of engagement. The most important thing you want to gain out of social media fans is to have them engage and interact with your posts. Engagement is what helps to make social media followers convert into loyal fans who will buy your stuff. The way I see, it’s one of the major keys to building your brand and developing connections with your audience. If you buy a lot of fake fans, you get no interaction from them, which throws off your engagement rates.
3. You will probably lose them anyway
Social media channels are constantly cracking down and purging fake followers from flooding their platforms. These fake accounts that are being created to inflate a person’s follower numbers are done in ways that violate the terms of services for their respective channels.
Most importantly, it’s in their best interest to get rid of fake accounts to preserve the accuracy of their data and the integrity of the platform. Remember that social media platforms are businesses too that make money off advertising. It doesn’t instill confidence for other businesses to pay money to use their ad platform if it’s reaching bots and not paying human beings.
When Instagram did a fake account purge, Justin Bieber made headlines for losing 3.5 million “fans” the following day. Other artists and accounts suffered hits too. This is not to say that all these people purchased fake fans, but it shows that these social media channels are proactive about the problem.
You may argue that these fake likes don’t cost much so it’s not a big loss even if Facebook or Instagram got rid of them. But it still damages your brand integrity and makes your fans suspicious of your intentions.
4. It’s easy to be found out
As suave as you try to be, you’re not fooling anyone. The thought of buying a few hundred, or even a thousand, social media “fans” feels reasonably low enough to not raise any suspicion. After all, I can’t imagine a no-name artist buying millions of followers and thinking they can get away with it. The outcome from either option will still leave a lack of engagement, or sign of actual human life, on your social media channels. When you have an ungodly amount of followers, people will notice and think either:
- You have fake accounts following you to give the appearance of popularity where there really isn’t any.
- Either your music or social media skills suck so bad that no one cares enough to interact with you.
Either way, people are not leaving with a good impression.
It’s so much easier to find out now if someone has fake fans with some tools and a little investigating. You just have to ask yourself, is your reputation and integrity worth all the trouble?
I’ll show you how you can go about detecting fake followers. You can look at it two ways. First, you’ll see how easy it is and it will discourage you from doing it. Second, you’ll see how someone can tell if you have fake followers to see if you can get away with it. It’s your career, not mine so do what you please, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
How to Find Fake Followers
Now that you know why you shouldn’t buy fake fans and followers on social media, here’s how you can detect them. I’ll go over how to do this with the following 3 platforms.
As I mentioned, it’s all about engagement. One way to tell is to see how many fans or followers they have on that particular platform and see if that number matches up with how much engagement their posts are getting. The one thing bots and fake accounts can’t do is engage. So if someone has 10,000 fans and the last comment they got was from 4 months ago, you can make a good bet that a lot of these followers are fakes.
Keep in mind that every account is going to have some small percentage of fake spam accounts, but it does not mean they purchased fake likes or followers.
There aren’t any tools out there as far as I am aware that will automatically detect the number of fake accounts on your Facebook page. However, you can inspect one area on someone’s Facebook page that can give you clues about the legitimacy of the audience.
On the artist’s or band’s Facebook page, there are two sections you can click to lead you to analyze their likes and engagement. (See Photo Below) You don’t need to “like” their page to see these numbers, nor do you need a Facebook account to see it. If I come across an artist page that bought fake likes, I’ll be sure to use it. In the meantime, I’ll use my favorite group Atmosphere to show what to look for.
Please note: I’m not implying that they bought fake fans. I’m only using them as an example of where to click to examine their likes.
Once you click on either link outlined above, you’ll see these two sections that are potential signs of buying fake likes:
People Talking About This (PTAT): Without going into too much detail, this is a number that Facebook uses to indicate the engagement levels of the page based on a number of things including clicks, likes, comments and shares. I would consider a PTAT that is 1% – 2% of the total number of page likes a healthy amount of engagement. Anything significantly less means they purchased a lot of fake fans or they just plain suck at social media.
New Page Likes: This is not going to be an effective indicator because the graph is based on data for the past 2 weeks. However, you will be able to tell if they recently purchased likes. In a typical growth pattern, it should gradually go up. Spikes can be normal too if an artist received a lot of exposure, publicity, or even paid for Facebook likes legitimately through Facebook Ads. But what you want to look out for are sharp spikes that go up and then flat lines.
You use to be able to examine who has liked the page to see who was following the account but it looks like that was removed. However, you can do that with Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter is one of the easiest platforms to detect if an account has a lot of fake followers.
These tools make it easier to identify fake and inactive accounts. Try them out for yourself:
You can also manually click on their Followers list and examine who’s following them. Here’s a list of what you can look for determine which profiles are fake:
- Spammy names, Twitter handles or profile pics
- The account only has retweets, no original tweets of their own.
- The number of people they are following is disproportionately higher than the number of people following them.
- “Egg” profiles that look like brand new accounts with no profile or cover photos.
- Fake accounts are always going to be bought in bulk so you’ll see similarities in how they are created that give it away.
Here’s an example of a Fake Twitter account:
This fake account was found on this person’s followers list. Tell me if you notice anything suspicious about all his other followers: https://twitter.com/AsherOakthorn/followers
You can follow the same strategies from Twitter on Instagram. It’s not as easy to look through, but there are some tools you can use.
IG Audit (FREE): https://igaudit.io/
These are paid:
Just keep in mind that these tools are not going to be 100% accurate. I’ve tested a few accounts that don’t buy followers and gotten scores over 70%. Some accounts that I’ve suspected to contain fake followers that were bought scored below 50%. Examining engagement trends are going to be big signs.
If there are any numbers you should really focus on, it isn’t your social media fans. I know, I get it. The numbers make you feel more validated.
It’s easy for someone who may be a casual listener to just like you on your Facebook or Soundcloud account, which is fine. But don’t assume that all fans are the same or equally valuable. Your social media accounts should not be used to determine the number of your true loyal fans. Social media is more about nurturing your fan relationships so you can potentially convert those casual listeners to becoming the life-long fans you need to sustain a career in music.
What you should really focus on is building up the numbers of email subscribers. It’s not as easy, but to me, that’s a better measure of your loyal fans that are more likely to buy from you and see your shows. Those numbers aren’t going to be sexy. because no one else will see them but you.
In a future blog, I will share what are the best strategies to build up your social media numbers organically so stay tuned!