11th April 2017 David Waddington

Buying friends – is paying for social followers worth it? (Part 2)

Buying followers is the ‘black hat’ technique of social channels. But rather than chastise and condemn those that do with the many reasons it’s a bad idea, I thought I would conduct an experiment to buy some followers myself to find out first hand the benefits/downsides.

Can you really buy engagement?

In my last blog post I explained how I went about buying some new followers.

First, a disclaimer:

To be clear, I do not endorse purchasing followers at all. I believe in organically cultivating engagement through interesting content. But how can I look down on a common practice without having first-hand knowledge? I want to be able to provide experiential evidence in this blog series rather than merely spouting social dogma finalised with a ‘because I say so’.

With that out of the way, this is what happened after payment went through.

Robot invasion

As soon as the money went in I waited.

And waited.

… And waited.

It had been 24 hours and I was thinking ‘scam’. Then at around 10pm, a mere 28 hours after PayPal had been confirmed,  my phone started exploding.

New Twitter followers

Forced to turn off ‘new follower’ notifications from the incessant buzzing, I put the phone on sleep mode and left it until the morning.

When I awoke I had jumped from a respectable 793 followers to 2,140. All for the price of a Starbucks and a muffin.

Quality of follower

Usually when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is; so the first thing I wanted to know is the quality of my brand new followers.

Using TwitterAudit.com I examined my profile to ascertain how many of my followers were easily identifiable as robots. The more ‘bots’, the less integrity my account will have.Twitter audit in progress

After a quick scan, the results were surprising:

Twitter audit results

Only 255 obviously fake accounts following me (and to be honest, a good few of them could have been already following me prior to the purchase).

I was expecting a huge dent to the quality of my account with at least 60% of my followers being identified as artificial, but it appeared my new ‘friends’ were sneaking through the audit thanks to sporadic posts populated with retweets and mundane phrases to mimic human behaviour (e.g. ‘So is pork red meat or white meat?’ – deep, deep stuff).

What does this mean?

1000+ more followers is great, but what benefit does it bring? Well… very little.

Superficially, those browsing my account will think ‘wow – this person/organisation has a lot of followers’, but that’s as far as it goes. These are not motivated followers looking to deepen their new connection through ‘favourites’, ‘retweets’ and ‘direct messages’. They are likely to be as passive and unresponsive in their engagement as they were in the following  process.

I am expecting zero engagement from my brand new followers, and dubious over an increase in organic followers off the back of them.

However, this is day 1. I’ll be keeping tabs on the impact the purchase has had on my account; and also exploring other ways to increase followers on Twitter and other social channels via the nefarious method of payment to find out how well-founded the negative attitude to buying social attention really is…


Your story

Do you agree/disagree with purchasing followers? Have you had good or bad experiences? Share your story in the comments below.


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