Many new organizations on Social Media channels are often too tempted to purchase their followers in hopes of giving their pages the appearance of popularity, and to avoid looking brand new. While it’s true that visitors often gauge the value of a page by how many Likes, Followers, or Fans they have, in the end what matters most is engagement and good content – which you’re not going to get from purchased communities.
There are plenty of websites out there offering Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers for small fees. If you were so inclined, you could purchase 1,000 Likes for as low as $50, but at what risk? Facebook and Twitter frown upon bots, which is what you are generally getting from these companies. If they’re not using bots to generate new Fans for your pages then they are outsourcing to an army of people who Like and Follow for some sort of a reward, but then do very little for your pages after the fact. Either way, you’re getting a handful of hollow Fans.
Empty Followers are not the only reason you shouldn’t purchase your communities. Buying Fans is like lying to your potential audience during a time in which you want to practice good business ethics so that you can build trust. Savvy Social Media users (i.e. the majority of the Internet) are going to see that you have thousands of Likes on Facebook, but very few comments and no participation. They’ll put it together pretty quickly that you’ve bought your community of drones and perhaps find you less trustworthy because of it.
Another excellent reason to avoid this practice is that it will throw your statistical information way off. When the Likes and Follows start to trickle in, your stats are going to skyrocket and any valid participation from your genuine community will be skewed. During the first year of an organization’s online presence, this information is extremely vital for discerning how your audience functions and what types of audiences you attract. So, by purchasing a large chunk of your community you will void important statistics.
Also good to consider is that Facebook generally frowns upon such activity. If they grow suspicious of a sudden influx of new Likes on your page, they may review it and try to determine whether you are violating their terms of service. Though the majority of companies willing to sell fans are careful about this and allow the Likes to filter in slowly, it’s still a risky practice and could result in your organization’s page being banned from Facebook. In addition, every so often Facebook will batch-delete accounts they have deemed fake, and you could end up losing money.
It can be frustrating to get your pages off the ground and creeping towards popularity, but there are ways to do it and the struggle will be worthwhile. Here are some ideas for growing your community of fans the genuine way:
- Integrate your online and offline marketing by putting links to your Social Media pages on fliers, mailings, and advertisements.
- Attend or sponsor events, using word-of-mouth in public to promote your pages and direct people to your Social Media channels.
- Include links to your Social Media pages in the signature of your emails.
- Entice consumers to visit by running contests and giveaways, using sites like Punchtab which require Social Media participation.
- Invite friends and family and ask them to invite anyone they think might be interested. Warning: don’t spam them, that’s annoying!
- Install some fun Facebook apps like a ‘Top Fans’ tab that will rank your Fans and let them compete in a friendly manner.
- Find similar sites or blogs and purchase advertising space, linking back to your website or your Social Media pages.
- Visit online forums and other communities with similar themes, and supply links back to your pages. Warning: be sure to mind their rules!
- Most importantly, provide engaging content with value. Don’t speak to your audience, speak with your audience and provide them content that they’ll want to share to their hundreds of online friends.
The bottom line: purchasing your fans may seem like a good idea at first and you may think that it’ll give your page a more well-rounded appearance, but you won’t be able to fool the average Social Media user and you risk tarnishing your image. Getting Likes and new Followers is only the first step to growing your pages; you want them to return and contribute so that your community thrives. In the end, purchasing your audience will do nothing for you, your statistics, or your website as a whole.