By Hali Ortega
Five dollars can buy you a cup of coffee, a fast meal, and thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook likes. Purchasing a social media audience has been a tactic many people and businesses use with the hopes of building a real following. Websites like fiverr.com allow this type of social media presence boost in as little as 24 hours.
The question is do these services really work? On a journalistic endeavor Sam Biddle of gizmodo.com purchased followers under a friends Twitter handle. For five dollars he managed to get 2,000 followers, so it seems these services do work.
Besides the ethical issues, there are plenty of downsides to purchasing followers or likes. The glaring issue with buying followers or likes is that often they are shadows of people, not the real thing. These followers and likes are inactive or bot created accounts. Marketing blogger Michael Brandvold remarks for five dollars the exponential increase of numbers, “…sounds like a bargain, except this doesn’t promise you any further engagement or awareness of your brand,” because they are not active consumers, making them meaningless.
Another issue is that Google monitors these transactions by marking excessive increase of followers. A study by tastyplacement.com revealed the search engine combats these purchases by making sure increases of followers of 1,000 would lead to more than a 1 place drop in Google search ranking. On the flip side, large amounts of social engagement increased the Google search ranking.
There are also those pesky terms and conditions on social media websites that most people don’t care to read. In the rules section of Twitter for example, it states your account will be terminated if you are, “Creating or purchasing accounts in order to gain followers…Using or promoting third-party sites that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast,” or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account).” Buying a social media audience then runs the risk of losing the social media account altogether.
Although this is not the only route to build numbers on social media. Poynter’s Adam Hochberg detailed the buying of an audience through contests. One case he mentions is the station WFSB-TV out of Hartford, Connecticut. This station ran a contest during the “sweeps” month for Nielsen TV ratings where, “Visitors who click the page’s “like” button can enter a drawing to win a new Nissan Maxima,” which garnered them around 20,000 likes.
There are even more ways to “buy” a social media audience as outlined by Mitz Pantic of business2community.com. Besides contests, increasing numbers of likes and followers can be done by offering coupons, discounts, or referrals to people who have the same audience as you.
A lot of consumers may then follow or like people and businesses out of the hope of winning or obtaining something offered. These methods might rid of the ethical and social media rules dilemma, but whether or not they pull in active consumers to engage with your brand is another issue.