A quick Google search for ‘buy Twitter followers’, ‘buy Facebook fans’, ‘buy YouTube views’, or ‘buy Google +1’s’ reveals there are no shortage of ways to quickly grow your fan-base, likes or views.

The question is: Should you pay to artificially inflate these numbers?

While it certainly appears to be a feather in anyone’s cap who is able to deliver against quantitative measures such as number of followers, likes or views, there are significant negatives associated with this approach of ‘community building’, and it is my advice to steer clear of these schemes.

YOU ARE NOT GROWING A RELEVANT COMMUNITY

Through the ongoing provision of valuable content, engagement and generally enriching people’s lives, you are going to attract a highly relevant community that is interested in you, your business or brand. These individuals are going to be representative of your consumers, or who they could potentially be. The followers, fans, and viewers that you can pay for, are not necessarily going to have this relevance, and therefore, will be of much lower value to you, your community, and your business or brand.

YOU CAN EXPECT LOW ENGAGEMENT

Because paid community members are not truly interested in you, your business or brand, they will be less likely to engage with your content, contribute, or be valuable members of your community. Additionally, many of the benefits of having an engaged community such as the amplification of your brand message, the increased virality of your content, or word of mouth endorsements, will not be experienced.

YOU ARE BEING DECEPTIVE

One of social media’s greatest strengths from a consumer standpoint is that it forces businesses and brands (for the most part) to be transparent and truthful in order to build consumer trust. If discovered by your social media community, the purchase of fans, followers, likes or views, will feel like a breach in that trust and lead them to question the legitimacy of all past and future interactions.

YOU WILL BE EXPOSED

Services such as StatusPeople’s (@StatusPeople) Fake Follower Check tool gives everyone the ability to do a check on the authenticity of your Twitter followers to determine roughly what percentage are Fake (paid, bots, etc.), what percentage are Inactive (they will be of no value to you or your community, or these could potentially be fake accounts), and what percentage are genuine, or Good. If they aren’t already in existence, it will only be a matter of time before similar tools are developed for all major social media sites, and imagine the embarrassment of being discovered.

It is clear that there are some pretty serious negatives associated with the practice of paying for followers, fans, likes, and views; so why would an individual, business or brand pay for a service like this?

YOU CAN PROVIDE SOCIAL VALIDATION TO THOSE ON THE SIDELINES

If you are managing a fledgling community with few members, buying followers can add a sense of social validation to those standing on the sidelines, not yet willing to commit to joining your community and conversations. The adage, ‘no body likes to be first to the party’, exists for a reason, and sometimes it takes a sense of momentum in a social media community (likes, +1’s, followers, views) for others to feel comfortable enough to get involved themselves.

YOU CAN ADD PERCEIVED CREDIBILITY

Quickly ‘fanning-up’ can gain you and/or your community the perception of credibility. This can lead more legitimate community members to believe that they are associating themselves with a business or brand that carries some clout and will provide them with valuable and trustworthy content or community interactions.

YOU CAN MEET QUANTITATIVE OBJECTIVES

For some marketers, brand managers, community managers, or marketing or advertising agencies, successfully meeting or surpassing social media KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) is critically important to their bonus structure, performance reviews, business development, or business retention. When the pressure is on, and performance metrics such as number of fans, followers, views or likes are not tracking to meet objectives, this can be seen as a last resort.

I can understand that paying to inflate these quantitative metrics can be tempting. I, myself, am in the early stages of trying to establish this blog, my Twitter following, Facebook community, and my even younger Google + community. Like everyone, I would love to achieve overnight quantitative success, but there are more important metrics to measure.

It is critical to remember the true reasons why we place such weight on building our brands through the use of social media. Ultimately, it isn’t to inflate your number of fans or followers, it is to engage with other people, to be presented with new opportunities and challenges, to learn from one another, and develop real, meaningful connections. None of these things can be accomplished by simply paying to have more followers.

Whether you are a brand manager, business owner, marketer, advertiser or individual, try to place more emphasis on providing true value to your community, and less on the numbers. Have a little faith that if you are enriching people’s lives, and using the tools at your disposal smartly and strategically, that people will take notice and the numbers will grow.

As always, it would be great to hear from you if you’d like to contribute some thoughts of your own, have any questions, or would like to comment on this post. You can reach me in any of these places:

Email: matthew@rgbsocial.com

Twitter: @RGBSocial

Facebook: facebook.com/RGBSocial

This post was inspired by a tweet by Mitch Joel (@mitchjoel) that read: 

What does buying followers, likes and views actually get a brand? Is that really “scale”?

I’ve never met Mitch (or even corresponded with him through social media), but he has a fantastic blog, Six Pixels of Separation, and book by the same name that you should check out.

Image Credit: Veer 

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Community Management, Social Media Marketing, Strategy

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