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Stop Buying Followers; Why You Should Stop Paying to Grow Your Social Following

Buying followers is one of the worst ways to spend your social media budget

Social media trends ebb and flow, and recently more and more marketers are approaching our agency asking, “Can you run a program to get me more fans on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter?”

Stop. Right. There.

Running a program to get your brand more fans or followers on social media is an absolute waste of time, but more importantly, it’s a waste of your money. Feel free to watch the short video below or read through this post to fully understand why your money is going down the drain if you invest in these practices.

Let’s start by setting the scene. We’re going to assume you want to add 100,000 fans to your Facebook following AND 100,000 fans to your Instagram following. How can you achieve that?

Buying Followers

The easiest and WORST way to achieve this goal is to simply buy your fans from a third-party service. As pictured below, you could essentially spend $1,000 to get your 100,000 fans ($2,000 to get the fans for both channels). Done.

cost of buying followers

Why You Shouldn’t Do This: They’re not real fans (and likely not real people)! In the next few months, the platforms are going to delete these fake accounts from the system and you’re going to see your numbers drop back down. So, this cheap, quick win is bound to bring you right back to where you were.

Running Ads Optimized for Lead Acquisition

This is likely the most common option brands lean towards because it’s one way to attract real people to start following your account. That said, the networks highly discourage this option, so much so that Facebook doesn’t even have an ad unit on Instagram for follower acquisition. But while it’s still doable, it’s a mistake.

Why You Shouldn’t Do This: Let’s get back to the math since that’s going to be the easiest way to explain this. Again, you’re looking to increase your Facebook followers by 100,000 fans, and the same on Instagram. By running these ads, you’re looking at a $1 cost-per-lead (CPL) on Facebook and a $7 CPL on Instagram (based on historical data from past programs we’ve run).

Given these numbers, you’re looking at an $800,000 spend… and it only gets worse.

Cost of unreachable social media fans

Let’s talk about organic reach, which has significantly declined over the past years. On Facebook, of the 100,000 new followers you’ve gained, about 2,000 of them will see your content based on the channels estimated 2% organic reach rate. While Instagram has a higher average organic reach rate of about 20% (we’ve seen as low as 10% and as high as 30%), you’re still only looking at 20,000 fans seeing your content.

That means you just spent $800,000 to get 22,000 impressions from 1 post on each channel.

Now say you’re posting twice a week for the 50 weeks, that turns into 2.2 million impressions.

Your CPM for that 2.2M impressions is $383.63.

Now, for those of you who are less familiar with media buying CPMs, that’s BAD. The CPM you should expect from a normal, decently targeted Facebook buy is estimated at $3… and you’re at $363.

If you wanted to reach the same 2.2 million impressions among a solid target audience of about 200,000 people, it would cost you about $6,600

You spent $800,000 when you could have spent $6,600.

Also, those 100 pieces of content I referenced earlier that you’re publishing to social media, none of the costs for producing and publishing that content is factored in.

Ultimately, you’re looking at a waste of $793,400.

Cost of unreachable social fans

That’s 120x more expensive than if you had just gone directly to them.

And we haven’t even touched on fan attrition yet. Social media users are much more commonly hiding, muting, unfollowing, and unliking fan pages than they are adding those fan pages. So, once you add 100,000, you’re going to see them drip away over the next couple of months and have to explain that to your higher-ups.

Running Lead Acquisition Programs

The third way you can get these followers is to run a program that incentivizes the user to Like or Follow your page, such as a sweepstakes or an influencer marketing program.

Why You Shouldn’t Do This: It’s prohibited from the rules of terms of service on Facebook and Instagram. BUT – people still get away with them all the time if you still want to run one (note, we won’t).

social media follower promotions

More importantly, if you’re trying to get someone to click on your content or an influencer’s content, why wouldn’t you try to get them to click on something that’s going to drive a real action for your business? Get these users to your listing on Amazon or your own webpage where you can pixel them and retarget them with an offer that gets you their email address so you can continue to push them down the funnel. Spending that action on getting a follower when we’re talking about 2% organic reach rate or 20% organic reach rate, the math still doesn’t add up. If you can drive a click, drive a click to something more valuable than focusing on your follower count.

Implementing a Solid Content Strategy

The last way to grow your followers on social media is our number one recommendation. Create good content, use the right hashtags, and take your time. Your follower growth won’t happen overnight, but over the next year, you’re going to attract the right, highly engaged audience that’s most likely to buy from your brand.

Remember that $793,000 wasted on lead acquisition ads? You could do an entire year of community management, content creation, and boosting of that content and still have money left over. You could run an entire year of an influencer ambassador program that could guarantee you millions of impressions or tens of thousands of website clicks.

As you get ready to finish up your 2020 social media marketing strategy, take a look at those KPIs and goals you’re setting. If “growing social media following by X” is on the list and you’re getting ready to send out RFPs – step back and revisit that strategy. Even if the order if coming in from someone above you, share this article or the video above with them to get everyone on the same page. Also, if you want to send one of those RFPs our way, please do so using the form below. As the original social media agency, we love diving into social strategies and developing solutions for brands. We’d love to see how we can partner with you and drive real, meaningful, measurable results.

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