Businesses Buying Followers: Good Strategy or Costly Mistake?

The purchase of social media “likes” and “followers” has become increasingly popular with businesses and brands as a marketing technique.  An industry already worth millions of dollars a year specializes in creating fake social media accounts to market products. Thriving in third world countries where they are known as “click-farms,” companies create fake profiles and sell them as “followers” (or sell “likes” from that account) to different businesses.

Followers for sale?
Followers for sale?

So what’s the draw for fake followers? In our ever-growing social media world, “likes” and “followers” are almost as important as sales numbers.  The more of each that a product or company has, the more its popularity increases, which in turn ups both its importance and its influence in the business world.  This advantage is huge for brands, as they strive to create followings for their products, to get people to ‘click’ on their ads, and hopefully, turn those followers into customers.

But what about the drawbacks? Now that this is a popular business practice, social media sites are catching wind of it and putting a stop to the fake profiles as they hurt the sites’ credibility. Fake accounts are being identified and deleted more quickly, with many organizations devoting whole departments to cracking down on this process. And as social media sites have the power to delete fake accounts and “likes,” businesses can say so long to the money they paid for them. In addition, how can companies be sure that real, potential customers are actually seeing their legitimate profiles instead of the falsely generated profiles they paid for?
The question businesses need to ask themselves is whether the payoff of using ‘click farms’ is worth the risk.  While doing so has the potential to get a brand in the spotlight, if only for a short period of time, there is no guarantee that it will increase sales.

Laura Beilman
Graduate Student, MA in Emerging Media Program
Loyola University Maryland

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