The notion of buying social media followers for your business seems too taboo to even put in writing. After all, isn’t B2B social media supposed to be about connecting with real business owners and helping them solve real problems?

Technically, purchasing followers isn’t illegal — at best, it’s just a quick way to make your business appear more popular than it really is. But at worst, it can be downright harmful to real users.

Let’s take a look at the notion of buying social media followers (and its recent focus in the news), and then examine whether this is a good practice for your B2B business.

Purchasing Followers on Social Media

There are different ways to do buy social media followers, some involving real people, and others involving bots. There are companies that sell fake accounts directly to those who want more followers, and then there are companies that take a more subtle approach, like Devumi.

In January 2018, a small company named Devumi made headlines for engaging in a shady business: selling fake followers (bots) derived from real social accounts, including those belonging to minors.

Devumi’s clients ranged from PR firms to celebrities, and for pennies, would boost their clients’ Twitter followers, views on YouTube, and more. When contacted, those of Devumi’s customers who responded gave some version of the statement, “it’s no big deal, everybody does it.”

And while plenty of businesses are doing it, this doesn’t mean that purchasing followers will actually give you the ROI you’re looking for in your B2B business.

The Pros and Cons of Buying Followers

The main benefit of purchasing followers on social media is that it makes your brand or business look more popular or influential than it actually is. Potential customers, clients, and employees are far more likely to be “wowed” if you have thousands of followers rather than a few hundred.

In some regard, having more followers — even if they’re fake — can lead to increased engagement among real social media users. And in B2B industries that hinge on influence (social media management, or marketing), this bump in followers may actually land you a slew of new clients.

But because there are so many more potential negative outcomes of purchasing followers, let’s talk about those now. First, there’s no way to ensure (without a lot of hard work on your part) whether your purchased followers are real people or bots. Obviously, bots aren’t going to make a purchase from you.

Secondly, even if your followers are real people, they may not fit your target market. In the case of Chef Michael Symon, after he purchased followers in 2014, he realized that his new followers were both bots and humans who were completely uninterested in his industry — doing little to drive meaningful traffic to his digital channels. And when you’re a B2B business, it’s essential that you’re connecting with the right stakeholders at legitimate businesses rather than random individuals on social media.

An Alternate Way to “Buy” Social Media Followers

Rather than paying for a specific headcount of new followers, there are other ways to invest your money in growing your social platform. Here are a few of them:

  • Use an app to manage who you follow. Rather than manually sifting through profiles, use an app or hire a service to follow relevant users (and unfollow those who don’t follow you back). Crowdfire, DoesFollow, FollowFly, and ManageFlitter are examples of these types of services for Twitter.
  • Hire a social media management service to grow your following. You’re not an expert in everything within your business, so why spend hours becoming an expert at social media? Work with a reputable social media manager or company to help you grow your following organically. It will take longer than buying followers, but may be well worth it.
  • Use a social media management tool. If the logistics of posting valuable content across multiple channels is dragging you down, use an automatic scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to streamline things.
  • Use paid ads. All major social media platforms offering advertising options. Whether it be for brand awareness, followers or sales conversions, paying for legitimate ads through these platforms allows you to get your brand in front of a more targeted audience who can choose whether or not to give you a follow.

Finally, despite the fact that most social media platforms prohibit people from creating fake accounts or abusing the system, social media companies unfortunately still profit from having more users (whether they’re real or not).

A 2018 Bloomberg article by Leonid Bershidsky offers a solution that would eradicate this extreme competition for likes and follows: social platforms could simply make stats about number of followers unavailable to the public, which would “remove the temptation to inflate them.” And if more people continue to manipulate these systems, there’s a chance social media companies will actually remove these stats anyways — at which point, what will matter is the content you’re posting, not the number of likes, retweets, and followers you have.