You Can’t Buy Your Friends – Or Can You?

Companies can buy likes, views, and followers to look more successful on social media 

As social media users, we know the familiar thrill of gaining new Twitter followers, or watching the number of views on our YouTube videos skyrocket. For companies, though, gaining new followers and reaching a broad audience is not just about the thrill — it is pivotal to success.  As blogger Daniel Sharkov explains, “No matter how much you engage with others or how quality your tweets are, getting results with only 200 followers can hardly happen.”

In the past, companies have used an accepted account-building strategy on social media sites such as Twitter, in which they mass-follow other users in hopes that the users will return the follow.  To limit excessive following, however, some sites have put rules in place.  For example, Twitter has instituted a “follow-limit.” This limit permits Twitter account users to follow no more than 2,000 other users, and allows this limit to be exceeded only if the user’s following/follower ratio is acceptable.

Yet, some companies are looking for loopholes in these restrictions to rapidly increase their following.  Their solution?  They look to what has become known as the social media “black market.”  Here, companies have the ability to buy Facebook likes, YouTube views, Instagram likes, and Twitter followers.  A quick Google search reveals just how accessible these sites are.  But does this mean they should be used?

The answer is simple: no.  Why, do you ask?  Aside from the underhanded nature of it, let’s look at what happens when these sites “add” followers.  Take Twitter, for example.  Two types of followers can be added: “targeted followers,” who are actual people that are most likely interested in the topics you tweet about, or “created accounts,” which are fake, bot accounts.  Many sites only add these bot followers.  These fake accounts do nothing but pad follower numbers, and are thus incredibly ineffective in increasing the scope of the message you’re pushing out.

Look, for example, at what happened to the Mitt Romney campaign following a scandal involving purchased Twitter followers.  After gaining more than 10,000 followers in one weekend, critics began to critique Romney for purchasing fake followers.  Though the campaign’s digital director denied the claims, Romney still received flack.  Wendy Schiller,  a political science professor at Brown University, explains why the fake followers caused such an uproar amongst the public.  She says, “They [the public] do care if you’re a fraud.  They do care if you’re lying about who supports you…Why risk your credibility?”

Thus, while the allure of increasing one’s digital media popularity may seem enticing, practitioners must be wary of falling into potentially dangerous traps.

1 thought on “You Can’t Buy Your Friends – Or Can You?

  1. I had heard about this already, but about individuals doing it, not companies. I thought it was a joke.

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