To buy or not to buy: that is the question.

Cutting corners to gain a massive overnight social following can be pretty tempting. After all, 20 bucks for a few thousand followers seems like a pretty sweet deal. But before you whip out the company credit card, it’s worth examining both the benefits and potential drawbacks of acquiring a legion of robo-followers.

What’s the upside to purchasing social media followers?

The biggest immediate benefit to be gained from an influx of followers is that it positions your brand as, well, follow-worthy. In fact, as the theory of herd mentality has demonstrated, people have a tendency to follow what those around them are doing and form opinions based on the group’s inclinations.

Buying followers can be a jumping off point for reaching real followers — which comes with real benefits. Much as a crowded restaurant can seem more appealing than a deserted one, people are more likely to be interested in a brand that already has thousands of followers who have presumably “vetted” the quality of the material being broadcast on the brand’s social media platforms.

How much does a strong social following go for these days?

The price for social media followers varies depending on the level of interaction you’re looking for. Like any purchase, you get what you pay for. Bulk followers can be extremely affordable: you can buy 100 followers for under $5, and as many as 50,000 followers for under $300. Keep in mind, though, that if your “fans” don’t ever react to your posts, it’s a good indicator to others that they were purchased — and that’s not a good look.

Buying followers who interact comes at a much steeper price. On average, it costs around $1,000 to purchase 10,000 followers who maintain active accounts and regularly interact with your posts.

What are the possible repercussions of buying followers?

Purchasing followers goes against the terms and conditions of most social media sites, which means that you will likely be penalized for engaging in this activity — not to mention that taking shortcuts puts your brand integrity at risk. If you have 50,000 followers and only 40 likes on each Instagram post, your real followers may suspect fishy business, which makes your brand look untrustworthy.

The bottom line is, shop at your own risk. While buying followers can pay off, going too far or too cheap can seriously affect your brand’s reputation. We recommend seeking out a “kosher” alternative in the form of paid and organic social media strategies, and leaving the robo followers behind.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer social media management services to build a vibrant audience for your brand across all media channels. Learn more about social media and PR here.

Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for Ireland.com, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

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