Many people buy Instagram followers, it seems like.
According to research from the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in August 2019 through an Instagram audit, a long list of well-known people from Ellen to Taylor has much percentage of fake Instagram followers—49% fake and 46%, respectively.
Granted, Ms. Swift is probably not buying those Instagram followers. There are tons of bots who follow huge name users to attract other users (hopefully they are real users)—and make themselves look more legitimate (Notice: a 0 follower count is your #1 red flag). Instagram also usually suggests huge names to new users, as it doesn’t yet know much about new users’ preferences.
However, that doesn’t have a bad effect on smaller brands or newer influencers like (spoiler alert) Caroline Calloway, who recently admitted to buying tens of thousands of followers back when she was just starting.
The thought that you must have a certain number of followers to be taken seriously—especially as you get your brand up and running—has been floating around for years. Vanity metrics are all about appearances, after all.
And we all know to get real Instagram followers, we have to go through so much work. Shortcuts can be tempting.
However, we wanted to test this particular shortcut out for ourselves.
Here is an example from an Instagram account that is for a burgeoning dog influencer.
That face deserves more love. To get it, the owner of this dog used two different online services to buy 1,000 followers. I wouldn’t say ‘love’ was the result. In the past few years, Instagram has cracked down on fake and scammy practices that buying followers is easy, but also kind of dingy, hollow, and… embarrassingly obvious.
Allow us to walk you through the whole experiment.
How to buy Instagram followers
Look for a reputable supplier
Surprisingly, buying Instagram followers has become less straightforward than it was.
Why? Back in 2018, Instagram started finding down practices that oppose its terms of service. That includes fraudulent third-party apps, fake followers, and bots.
On top of that, brands are starting to care about the $1.3 billion they’re going to lose because of fake followers on Instagram. Brands don’t want their marketing money targeting shell accounts, so they’ve been demanding increased accountability from influencers.
As a result, third-party auditing and vetting tools are getting more and more popular. And with all this pressure, some of the massive vendors we checked out first for my experiment had already gone belly-up.
On the whole, finding where to buy Instagram followers is a murky rabbit hole of unnerving websites with dubious security, logic, and copy-editing. There are tons of services to choose from there. Would you like “to possess the capability to magically change your small business”? Or perhaps you prefer the “100% organic” option?
Unfortunately, our first choice—Dries Depoorter’s “Quick Fix,” which is an actual physical vending machine that allows you to buy followers with coins—was not a viable option.
So, in the end, we selected two providers, StormLikes and Mr. Insta.
Select whether to buy fake followers in bulk, or subscribe to a drip
As a result of Instagram auditors—the software that brands can use to find fake users—often look for spikes and jags in follower acquisition, you can now pay to get followers at a less suspicious rate of growth.
The followers, in fact, still look mighty suspicious:
We decided to go with the bulk option because we imagined that getting ahold of customer service to cancel the monthly charge on my credit card might be… tough.
Type in your Instagram handle
At that moment, Instagram’s eradicated third-party apps, the process for buying followers is more streamlined. You don’t have to download an app and hand over your account details.
This makes things easier for those who insist on buying fake followers, given that Instagram monitors any user accounts that consort with creepy third-party apps, and has threatened to punish those accounts.
Of course, buying followers is against Instagram’s terms of service whether you use an app, a website, or any other kind.
Regardless of this, the companies selling them still love to claim they do it in the “utmost safest manner that does not break any rules with Instagram.” (This is a lie.)
Pay for your followers
We used to be curious to see whether the price point made any discernible difference, we ended up trying two providers. We bought 1,000 followers from StormLikes (for @akaprincessrosebud), and 1,000 from Mr. Insta
For 1,000 followers, StormLikes charged us $12.99, whereas Mr. Insta charged $35 + $1.75 HST. (Does Mr. Insta give a flip about the details of international sales tax? Nope.)
After we paid, StormLikes sent us a receipt from “Online Shopping.” The receipt told us that our money went to some dude’s email address (hi, bakerbenjamin788).
Side note: We also tried to buy 1,000 “organic” followers from one of the companies that used to be huge in this space: Socials Growth. They offer a whole introduction suite (bonus followers, likes, and so on.) for $29.99, however, their “payment system is down” until October 1st—oh wait, now it’s October 10th. Mysterious! we wouldn’t be surprised if their service is down for reasons which have more to do with Instagram’s disapproval than innocent admin issues.