We often talk about buying followers, and whether or not it’s safe to do so. My contention is that it is indeed safe to buy Twitter followers, and that with the right kind of investment, those followers can be both real and valuable to your brand. However, the world of follower purchasing is fraught with pitfalls and other traps, and it’s easy to be hooked and reeled in by a scammer with a legitimate-sounding offering, only to waste your money on well-crafted bots.
Should You Buy Followers?
If you’re looking to purchase followers, you need to analyze the reason why. Why do you want to spend money for followers directly, rather than grow them organically?
There are good reasons and bad reasons.
- You want a shortcut to the big leagues. The dirty secret of social media is that there’s no real “big league” to be found. There are always people above you, much more popular than you are. There are always people struggling to reach that point. The secret is not in the follower count, but in their engagement.
- You think all followers are safe and harmless. The fact is, 99% of fake followers are very easy to discover, so much so that there are apps available to scan your profile and identify them. It’s a matter of seconds for someone to discover your unnatural audience and call you out about it, which can blow up in your face. You need to avoid sites like Fiverr.com and low quality services selling bot likes.
- You expect a good return on investment. Real followers are expensive, so you need to guarantee sales if you want to make your money back. Fake followers are cheap, but are guaranteed not to convert, so you’re always going to lose money.
- You want to supplement organic growth. Purchasing followers the right way isn’t necessarily cheap – though it can be – but it can certainly grow your audience in a legitimate way. It’s the difference between getting 10 followers this week or getting 15. With real followers, once they’re part of your audience, there’s no way to tell an organic follower from a paid follower.
- You want higher numbers. The follower count on Twitter can be important, but you’re likely never going to buy your way into millions of followers. However, it’s also perfectly reasonable to run a business with a few thousand followers at most.
- You’re running engagement experiments. You might even want to purchase fake followers to see what sort of results you get, but you need to have the awareness that you’re not getting good followers out of it. This is the sort of thing you do on a test account to present a case study later.
- You understand that “buying legitimate followers” is synonymous with running follower-based ad campaigns. That’s really all we’re talking about here. Running ads with the intention of getting more followers is legitimate; buying them by the thousand from Fiverr probably isn’t.
So yes, you can purchase legitimate followers, but you need to be aware of two things primarily. First, if you want them to be legitimate, they won’t be cheap. Second, if you want them to be valuable, you usually won’t get a lot of them.
You’re paying money to speed up the organic growth process, but you won’t be able to circumvent it entirely. This also means you will still need to keep up the core tenets of organic growth. That is, you need to provide valuable content on a regular basis so users have something to be attracted to and something they want to follow.
All in all, you have to be ready to spend money and you have to be aware that your growth will not be, shall we say, explosive. If you’re looking for shortcuts, you’re going to be disappointed.
Signs Your Followers are Fake
When you go about buying followers, I always recommend starting small, with a small, cheap package, as a test. Buy 100 followers and watch them as they come in.
Analyze them for their quality, and only then can you determine if they’re worth continuing to purchase. Here are some signs that the followers are fake.
- They don’t appear to be interested in anything relevant to you. I have a test account that primarily tweets a couple times a week, and usually about gaming or pop culture. Nothing on it is religious of any sort, and yet an account for a church followed it. It’s pretty clear they’re fishing for followers, and that account – even if it’s real – isn’t going to be valuable to me in any way. There’s a difference between actual fakes and irrelevant accounts, though, which I’ll talk about next.
- They have more people they follow than follow them. One sign of a fake account is when it follows a ton of people but doesn’t have very many followers. Often these accounts will have very low thresholds, because Twitter has hard limits on the number of people you can follow when you have too few followers. Savvy sellers might network their bots to all follow each other and inflate their counts, but that’s also easy to identify.
- They have little or no personal information. Many bot accounts were called “egg” accounts, because they used the default Twitter profile picture, which is an egg on a colored background. However, recently Twitter removed the egg avatar because it was gaining vast negative associations, so now there’s a more placeholder-style silhouette avatar for new accounts. Either way, an account without a profile picture is more likely to be fake, or at least very low value.
- Their profile picture is commonly found online. Some of the more mid- and high-tier fake sellers will set up their bots with real-looking information. Generally, their profile description will be spun content from other profiles, and their profile picture will be stolen from a legitimate user or will be a stock photo found all over the internet. Use the Google search-by-image feature, and if you see the photo on a dozen different Twitter accounts, it’s probably fake.
- They rarely or never tweet themselves. Many bots will rarely tweet, because tweeting is not valuable to them. Alternatively, they will tweet about products and services they don’t really care about, because the seller is being enterprising and using their bots to spur on trends or sell retweets as well as follows.
- They aren’t geographically relevant. This is primarily for local businesses, but you’ll often find that when you buy followers, the most narrow geographic targeting you can buy is “in North America.” A business that only does business in rural Kansas isn’t going to benefit from followers in California, Nebraska, Canada, or Germany, so followers anywhere far outside of your radius, while potentially legitimate, aren’t going to be useful to you.
You can also simply use apps to check them. Use something like Twitter Audit or BotOrNot to scan your followers and see if the new ones show up as fake. You might also want to scan prior to making your purchase, to make sure you don’t have a lot of fakes prior to your purchase.
When Real Followers are Fake
I mentioned this above, but sometimes real followers aren’t really all that real. People will often follow you just simply fishing for the reciprocal follow-back. They want to build their own follower bases by abusing reciprocal attitudes that have been slowly dying on Twitter. It still works, but it means these accounts will end up with something like 95K followers and 96K people they follow.
The geographic concerns and the concerns about interest fall into this category as well. When a user follows you, you want them to be both interested in you and potentially interested in buying your product or service. If they aren’t going to provide some benefit to you, they aren’t great followers.
Now, some followers will have absolutely no purchase intent, but will be happy to follow you and retweet your content. This engagement is still better than nothing, and these followers can be worth buying, though at a lower cost than the followers you want with purchase intent.
This effect does turn real people following you because of your content into potentially “fake” followers, but you shouldn’t conflate these people with the followers who are actually bots. It’s generally pretty easy to tell the difference, in any case.
How to Purchase Real, Legitimate Followers
There are a bunch of different ways to buy followers on Twitter, but the best typically revolve around ads. Either you’re paying for and running Twitter ads yourself, or you’re paying someone else to run ads for you, either through the Twitter ads system or through their own ad networks.
Let’s first start with the “less legitimate” of the two, which is sellers who essentially just outsource advertising. These people will advertise your content and your brand through their own ad networks, and those ad networks will vary as much as there are sellers. Some people have networks of Twitter followers, and they’ll pitch you to their followers in an attempt to get you more followers themselves. This tends to be cheap, but also pretty ineffective. They might also work through ad networks on websites, like Google’s ads or one of the many third party ad networks.
The other alternative is to simply run Twitter ads. Twitter ads can be managed for a very low investment, but you really need to understand both your existing audience and the audience you want to attract. This is so you can understand the kinds of ads you run, the kinds of people you hook in with those ads, and the kinds of people you want to be targeting.
Unfortunately, Twitter ads are nowhere near as robust as Facebook ads when it comes to targeting. You have more limitations, less information to work with, and less space to come up with a compelling ad. You have to work with what you’re given, though, and Twitter’s native ad platform is the best place to reach Twitter users. Anywhere else and your Twitter-centric ads might be reaching people who don’t have or use Twitter.
Tips for Better Twitter Ads
Rather than try to summarize a bunch of Twitter ad tips here, I’m just going to link you to a bunch of other posts that can help you manage Twitter ads in an effective, cheap way.
Our own How to Use Twitter Ads to Get More Followers guide. It’s a relatively basic guide, but can get you started.
Hubspot’s Field Guide to Twitter Ads. This is a pretty detailed rundown of what kinds of ads you can run on Twitter, how to target those ads, how to set budgets, and how to effectively analyze the results of those ads once they’ve been running for a while.
HootSuite’s Complete Guide to Business Ads on Twitter. A similar guide to the above, but HootSuite provides more real examples and specific tips along the way. Both guides supplement each other.
Hootsuite’s Twitter Ads Size Guide. Not so much a deep textual analysis, this guide simply shows you different ad units on Twitter and what the sizes and formats are for the graphics you can use with them. It’s an excellent little reference.
Sprout Social’s Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Advertising. This guide takes you from creating a profile all the way up to running a successful ad campaign, and is great to follow if you’re new to the whole social marketing experience.
Digital Marketing Institute’s Ultimate Guide to Twitter Ads. This guide emphasizes website conversions rather than Twitter followers, but it’s great for small businesses that see conversions as the deciding factor for success.
Social Media Examiner’s How to Build a Winning Ad Campaign. As an added benefit, you can listen to this guide in podcast form. They help you choose the right type of campaign for your goals and optimize that campaign for the goals you want to achieve.