How To Grow A Following WITHOUT Fake Followers

Fake followers have become a social media plague, hitting the news in recent weeks. Fake followers not only violate privacy concerns of users, they’re also forbidden by every major social media platforms’ terms of service, and not productive from a marketing standpoint. Ultimately, fake followers are dangerous and futile.

What’s going on with fake followers, what’s the problem with them, and what can you do grow your following without them?

What’s the fake followers story?

In the past few weeks, the “social media black market” has been unleashed—and many were shocked by the exposed prevalence of bots. Hundreds of celebrities, entrepreneurs, athletes, businesspeople, TED speakers, and even church pastors have been “caught” with fake followers, or “bots.”

These celebs and influencers purchased followers and retweets to appear more popular and exert more influence online. Some also tried to monetize this influence, artificially pumping their followers to gain “influencer” advertising sponsorships.

Social media platforms’ terms of service explicitly prohibit bots, but they still fly by under the radar. Now, these sites are being forced to acknowledge the issue, and work on new flagging methods to ensure the protection, privacy, and security of their users.

What’s the problem with fake followers?

Fake followers seem harmless enough, right?

Not exactly. In fact, these fake profiles can actually influence and sway serious conversations like political and religious debates. They may also even be considered identity theft. They take names, pictures, hometowns, and personal details from real Twitter users—including minors. This leads to a real person’s online likeness being used to promote everything from porn accounts to extreme political views. People feel violated—and rightfully so.

Fake followers fall into a legal gray area. There aren’t any federal regulations against them yet, but the collective consciousness feels uncomfortable and disturbed by these bots.

Why are fake followers bad for marketing?

Today, marketers wrongly assume that the number of followers equates to reach, impressions, or sales.

That’s true—in an ideal world. If you have a quality following, all of your social media followers would be potential customers of your business. For example, if you sell yoga clothing, all of your 5,000 followers do yoga on a consistent basis.

That’s the ultimate goal for marketers. You want the content you put out to be seen by a relevant audience of potential purchasers as often as possible.

But this doesn’t always happen on social media. In fact, there’s no proven correlation between number of followers and sales, view, impressions, or sign-ups.

Your following should focus on quality not quantity.

Fake followers aren’t relevant audience members. They’re not even real audience members. You may show 5,000 followers, but these “bots” don’t buy anything. Your followers aren’t purchasers. They can’t buy your yoga mats.

You’re spending money on content and social marketing with zero return on fake bots.

Moreover, followers don’t actually beget followers as we might expect. Today, our society monetizes influencers and bloggers. The more followers you have, the more popular you appear. This popularity can place you as an “influencer” in the industry.

But real people will see through your “popularity” if you’re not backed by real, engaged followers. Marketing campaigns won’t just look at your number of followers but also the quality of your content and engagement.

The goal of social media is to build a relationship between brand and consumer or prospect. If there’s no consumer, the resources spent on social and content marketing are wasted.

How can you organically grow your following?  

But the idea behind fake followers is valid. You want a strong following to position yourself as an influencer and thought leader in your industry. You want a quantity of followers who will interact with your content, spread your brand’s message, and purchase your products and services.

So what can you do to organically grow your following?

Be a real person interacting with real people.

1. Spend time with your followers on the social platform.

Ultimately, if you want your followers to engage with you, you need to engage with them. You should like photos in your niche and write genuine comments. Respond to tags, comments, and retweets.

Socializing on social media is the same as in person. You need to put in the effort and interaction with another person if you want to build a legitimate, engaging relationship.

How often should you engage? As often as you can! While you’re watching T.V., open Twitter and respond to your followers’ comments. While you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, “explore” Instagram to interact with new followers. A few minutes here and there can go a long way.

2. Put out quality content.

If you have great content, people will follow you. As we see from fake followers, even well-known names like Lori Greiner and Katie Lowes have trouble getting legitimate followers. That’s because they’re relying on their name alone.

Unless you’re a Kardashian or U.S. president, it’s unlikely you’ll get followers just for being you. Even the Kardashians have to put out high-quality, relevant content if they want to maintain their followers.

What does “quality” content look like?

You need both visual and thought-provoking content. We usually recommend a two-pronged approach:

  • Work with a visual platform like Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter to encourage a high number of “impressions” through aesthetically pleasing, relevant pictures and videos.

  • Host a blog or video series to build a deeper conversation within your niche.

This approach allows you to systematically increase both your reach and engagement without a significant outpouring of resources.

3. Have a strong call to action.

Followers won’t do something unless you ask them to. Do you want more retweets? Ask them for it. Do you want a greater reach? Tell your followers to tag a friend.

Call to action is a marketing basic, but we often forget it with “quick-form” social media. Every post should have some sort of call to action if you want your followers to act.

One of our favorite Twitter approaches is the “sharing vote.” For example, “Like if you’re a dog person, retweet if you’re a cat person.” You’ll get people sharing your brand name when they cast their vote. Make this relevant to your content and brand, so your follower’s engagement can function as marketing as well.

4. Geotag your photos.

Any picture that shows some sort of location, even in the background, should be tagged. Other people searching for that location will see your post and already have something in common with you. This increases visibility and impressions simply based on location. Leverage the power of proximity.

5. Partner with other influencers.

Social partnerships allow you to build relationships within your industry. Even one partnership can increase visibility, enhance reach, and gain followers.

Don’t be afraid to go after the big fish. Is there an influencer you’d love to partner with for exposure? Like and comment on all their posts. Engage with them often to get your name in front of them consistently. From there, you can reach out to them in a friendly way for partnership. Remember to provide them with value before asking for anything in return.

But you don’t have to partner with only big fish. For example, you could partner with a small business owner in your niche to do a content swap. This can help you “share” followers and demonstrate your mutual thought leadership in the niche—even if you’re both still growing your following.

Grow Organically

Buying fake followers is a waste of resources that results in a parade of bots and zero marketing return.

A strong following is important, but only if that following provides quality set of relevant viewers, readers, and leads. If you’re investing in content marketing, you want to gain a return by providing value to real people with real purchasing power.

Grow your following naturally with high-value content, call to actions, follower engagement, and influencer power.

How do you grow an organic following? Share this post with your insights!



Allison Hess