Friday, November 17, 2017

Why I Will Never Pay You To Promote Me On Instagram

It happens every once in a while. I see a little icon in the corner of my Instagram profile, indicating that someone wants to send me a message. I go to the page and scan the message. “Would you like to have thousands of people see your widget?“ Or “I think your widget is really great and would love to share it with my thousands of followers!“ or, “For a low fee of only $20 I will share your widget on my Instagram page and you will have massive exposure from all of my thousands of followers seeing your widget.“

Hmm. Interesting. The message piques my curiosity, so I click to visit the message sender's Instagram page. I see that they have a large amount of followers; 20,000…or 40,000… 100,000 ...or even many more. That’s a lot of followers. That’s a lot of exposure for my work.

But I‘ve been coming across articles on the web about how people buy followers and that those “followers” are just dummy accounts that actually don’t have a human behind them. They’re just numbers, empty fluff to fill a seat. Pretend quantity to be sold for a real price.

Buying “followers” should be called buying “numbers” because that’s what it really is. When you think about it, buying numbers is flat out deceptive to your customers and potential customers. Buying followers to create the illusion of an audience is sneaky and it’s wrong. It’s misleading, fraudulent, and dishonest.

Why do people do this? They do it for different reasons. One reason that people pad their following with fake followers is to make themselves look popular. They believe that people equate popularity with goodness. “Well, I see they have 50,000 followers… There must be something great about that person/product.“ Truth? Not necessarily.

Another reason people pad their numbers with fake followers– especially if they are selling a product - is to create the illusion of value. “Oh, look at how many followers they have. Their product must be really great.“ Truth? Not in every case.

Another reason people buy fake followers is to boost their own ego. Sigh. 

So, back to the message that someone sent me on Instagram. First, they contacted me out of the blue. I had no idea who this person was. I had never heard of them before. They were not a fellow artist nor were they a celebrity or anything that would naturally cause them to have any type of large following.

Second, they’re soliciting me. They asked me to give them money in exchange for them exposing me and/or my product to their massive amount of followers. All I had to do was send them a picture that they would post on their own Instagram account and poof, the rest is history. I would have lots of exposure and sales. Of course, they don’t guarantee anything, but the numbers are there. Or are they?

How do I know whether the person who sent me the message actually has a responsive solid following, or whether their following is just empty numbers?

This is where we get down to business. It only takes me a few seconds to determine whether this is a valid offer, or just a scam.

I click on their name, which takes me to their Instagram profile. I scroll through their feed, looking at all the things they posted, and paying close attention to the amount of “likes“ and responses to each of their posts.

I can tell that each of their posts are photos that were submitted by different artists or crafts people, as each photo showcases an item such as a piece of jewelry, or painting, and below the photo is a link that person's Instagram profile and or website. From seeing this, I assume that they actually are selling these ads and posting them as promised. Now the important part. I look at the number of likes below each photo and look for comments below each photo. This person has well over 40,000 followers, so there should be a good amount of likes as well as at least a comment or two below each photo—especially below photos that have been up for more than two days.

On my own Instagram account I have around 800 followers. Each photo I post collects about… I’d say 20 to 50 likes on average—some more, some less— but each depends on the quality and cleverness of the image as well as the coolness factor of subject of the photo of course.

I look below each of the solicitor's posted photos. I see that they have an average of about 100 to 250 likes per photo. Again, they have over 40,000 followers. Obviously, those numbers don’t add up and are way off. If even half of those followers were truly interested in what the solicitor was posting and sharing, they would be garnering many more likes then the small amount shown.

Obviously, this tells you that their 40,000 “person” following are in actuality just empty numbers, and not actual individuals who have an interest in anything that this person posts. So in a nutshell, this person is asking me to pay them my hard-earned money so that they can share my photo with no one. Ha!

In my opinion, the people who paid to have their photos shared were naïve. And that happens. It was a little bit their own fault for not doing the background research that I just showed you before sending off their $20. Like I said, it happens. Live and learn. But the solicitor is misleading, fraudulent, and basically a scam artist.

Don’t fall for this scam!

That is my first piece of advice. My second is don’t buy followers! With the practice becoming more and more prolific, it has become so much more obvious and easier to spot accounts that have fake followers. Not only is it tacky, it’s dishonest.

How long does it take to grow a real following? This depends on a few things. It depends on how hard you work and it depends on the quality of your work. If you produce quality work, people are going to follow you, without a doubt. If you perhaps create something that goes viral, you may earn many followers in a short period of time. But still, that number is very rarely in the multiple thousands.

I think the most followers I ever gained overnight was from a pin that I posted from my blog that went viral on Pinterest when a celebrity re-pinned it, and I gained over 1,000 followers in one night. But other than that, I love that my following is completely organic. It’s the show of the quality of my work combined with my patience and perseverance, and it's also a reflection of how much I promote myself and my work. 

I think my Pinterest account has about 118,000 followers, every single one organic. My Facebook page has about 13,000. Each of them followed me because they liked what they saw and they wanted to follow me. My Instagram has many less since I focus more on other means of promotion, but mostly because I won’t buy followers. 

How about you? What do you think?

Has anyone ever solicited you on Instagram to promote you? 

Have you ever bought followers? 

What types of advertising and promotion have and have not worked for you?

Share your experiences below!

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Have a great week!

My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at

Article, images, and designs copyright ©Laura Beth Love for Dishfunctional Designs™ 2017 all rights reserved