Working on an Instagram account can be very rewarding but draining. You have to take the good with the bad. The good being – making friends, joining a lovely community of people, working with businesses and having fantastic opportunities. The bad is the bitchyness, the time it takes and sometimes it can be disheartening when you work hard on something but feel like you get nowhere.
The question is though.. are those feelings justified? You may be basing someone else’s success on false pretences. I have been looking through some of the ‘big’ and very successful Instagram accounts. Some seem genuine and they may be but others are mainly fake. Fake meaning that they buy likes so that they can receive ‘and 1000’s of others’ on every post, fake meaning that they buy followers to give off a false representation of themselves and basically get lots of recognition and work from it. Do businesses know that they’re a big phony? Are they doing it because it helps them to be seen by genuine followers and likers. So this is what I’m here to find out. I’m going to make a fake account, with fake likes and followers and investigate. Just call me inspector morse.
So, how do they cover it up and get away with it? I’ve noticed a lot of people host a giveaway. Now personally I don’t think giveaways are that successful to gain thousands of followers. People don’t want to have a big follower count, they don’t want to follow loads of places to have a chance of winning something. People can’t seem to be bothered. I’ve spoken to many of influencers who agree that they just aren’t massively successful. Maybe a little, but a lot of people also unfollow after it. So you may gain a few hundred but thousands upon thousands? Super fast gains for an account which is so similar to others. So you begin to wonder how they gain thousands of followers when they didn’t even receive thousands of comments? Is it a cover up incase someone notices they gained so many followers in one go? I’m left to wonder but I do believe it could be the case for many people who buy followers.
So, I decided to investigate. I’ve met loads of friends through Instagram, we have chat groups where we discuss things, help each other and give each other ideas. Help edit photos, send contact details, organise events etc. We discuss a lot of things in there and quite often people with followings of over 20k, natural engagement and wonderful photos (I’m not being biased, I’d tell them if their content was rubbish) get turned down. So why is someone with not very good images getting accepted for Ads and getting decent collaborations when they have no genuine engagement.? Is it because they have ‘and thousands of others’ on their photos and thousands of followers? But why are brands not checking? It just takes a quick scroll through to see the fake likes and follows. When they do this they aren’t showing anybody their content because it’s all fake. Nobody is seeing it, it’s a bot on a fake profile, hacked profile or someone who is part of an online system who has to like a few photos in order to gain their free likes – I found this out today and will show you.
So I started out by creating a new account for Avery on the 23rd August. He’s a baby, I’ll show cute photos and maybe gain genuine engagement from it. After all, this is why I’m doing it? As an experiment.
So to buy likes I just typed into google ‘free Instagram likes’ and tonnes of websites came up and I bought some. I did spend £6 because I just wanted to get on with it. I’m hoping it might pay off and I’ll get it back coz I’m a major Scrooge! I also found a way to get free followers – which is below.
There’s also other ways to gain engagement and followers which some of the larger accounts don’t do. Why would they want seem fake? I’ve seen someone write multiple times about how she doesn’t loop but all her followers and likes are fake so what’s worse really? At least loops are real people.
A loop is where you comment on a loop post and ‘sign up’. The loop account then follows you and you have to follow everyone they are following and they follow you too. Therefore you gain loads of followers and you follow others too. You can pay to ‘ghost’ which is where everyone follows you but you don’t follow back. A lot of people then check their followers apps and unfollow you because you didn’t follow them. I know people say it’s not fake followers, but surely we can all agree that they didn’t follow you from the goodness of their heart? If they stick around though then I guess you’re doing something right.
Telegram – I don’t have telegram but from what I gather it’s like a WhatsApp and hundreds of people drop their link and you go like or comment on their content. If I’m wrong someone please correct me in the comments. But it’s basically an engagement group on a large scale.
Engagement groups – there’s plenty of these on WhatsApp, Instagram message or through hashtags. You can either drop links and people comment if they’re around, you catch up the previous 10 links above yours or you use a hashtag and scroll through liking or commenting so many photos. Different ones have different rules. These can actually be a good way to get people to notice things – for instance if a business has a tenner Tuesday deal, now multiple people can see it and help their engagement when those people may not have seen it originally and now purchased thanks to seeing it through the engagement group/hashtag.
Basically, Instagram isn’t what everyone thinks it is. But do these things bring greater opportunities? Or are they preventing genuine people from being brought to light because their account looks rubbish if they don’t have the high engagement? I’ll use an engagement hashtag now and then to get more likes and whilst I’m doing it I find accounts I love, photos I love and comment on them and find so many things to buy. I don’t have to do any of that but it means I’ve discovered lots of lovely accounts. To be honest, I don’t know any influencers who can say they haven’t used one and the ones that don’t, seem to be buying them anyway. The likes of Mrs Hinch has said she actually looped to gain followers on her account when she first started. Therefore even the Hinch herself didn’t start of completely organic and genuine.
I need to stop rambling on and let you know what I’ll be doing with my experiment. I’m going to buy likes when I post a photo, and add hashtags once I’ve received the likes to see if I am actually shown to more people. I’m going to buy followers to see if it means I gain more genuine followers and become a recommended account on Instagram or appear on the homepage. I’m going to apply to influencer ad agencies and see if I’m accepted for things, engage with brands to see if they approach me for collabs and approach the brands to see if they look to check if people are genuine and if I get accepted for anything. I’ll let you know how I get on and keep this blog post updated. You can follow the ‘fake’ account at @avery.mouse
Update 20th September –
So, I posted a maximum of 3 photos. I bought a thousand likes for each of them and each of them gained more from accounts I had never associated with. Each of them gained comments from people I didn’t know and each of them had a high reach even though.. barely any of the ‘likes’ were actual real people. I then bought 30k followers. Not even 10% of my followers were real.
I also joined an influencer network app where you submit adverts which can be accepted. Basically a business will post and if you already use their product you can take photos with it and submit some text, they then approve, decline or shortlist you to be then be approved or declined. There’s also the option to submit ‘mock photos’ in return for the item being sent to you. I personally use this so I’m trying to be as discreet as possible in what I say.
I submitted 2 food adverts ( something I never usually do as I’m diabolical at food photos), one for a cleaning product, a toy brand and a huge worldwide company brand I had already been accepted for on my other account. I even used a similar photo – I just used Alia instead of Luca but everything else was exactly the same. So out of those I was not declined once!! I was shortlisted or accepted for all. Usually I’m left hanging, then declined, shortlisted then declined weeks later and every now and then I get accepted on my real account. I didn’t receive a notification to say a brand had viewed my account, they just saw the 30k and went for it. I set my price at £200 for a grid post. I didn’t do stories as I couldn’t be bothered with the effort. Now if I was a total scammer I could have accepted this and been having a jolly good time but I’m keeping it real and I didn’t want to jeopardise my real account so I quickly removed the Instagram account 😂 I just feel so shocked that all brands see is a number when the number means nothing. I decided not to continue with the experiment as every time I posted a photo I’d need to pay for the thousand likes and I didn’t want to keep doing that. I have my genuine account, my business account and my life too so I just didn’t have the time. I do think that if I carried on then I would get more opportunities but that could very well link back to my real account and prevent me from getting them the right way.
So, I kind of have changed my mind and I haven’t. People who have bought a few thousand to help bump them up over others still do put a bit of effort in and have some genuine followers. I guess those likes are helping to boost their posts and the fake followers are helping to boost their organic following too. Some of them get way better opportunities and it can feel like a bit of a kick in the teeth when you work so hard on your account. But does it even pay to be real? Coz you can spend years working on an account and in reality you’re just lagging behind the fake accounts. Most of the ones who also have big numbers but real followers have looped multiple times a week to get there too. 10k used to be a massive achievement, when I finally reached it, it had become 20k and now I’m still at 10k and it has become the new 30k. But what do you do? Either way, it’s not necessarily people choosing to follow, even if they choose to stick around. If anybody feels low about the numbers you see on a screen then don’t. Because that person who gained 20k in less than a year is a a little bit of a phoney, just a phoney who now gets mega opportunities.
So it begs the question doesn’t it? Who’s the real winner?
Because when genuine accounts keep getting declined and feel deflated is it worth just giving your account the quick boost to get noticed and be on the same level of others? After all, if your contents great why should a number let you down? We tell people not to worry about the number on the scales, the numbers you get in tests so why are we still hung up over the number on social media?
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