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Yesterday Instagram found itself making headlines again. Countless celebrities and other influencers upset at losing thousands of followers, some of them millions. I also watched the same reaction unfurl on many of the small business networking groups I follow.

Call me a cynic, but I’m impressed every one of this person’s followers are genuine. How can they be so sure?

Call me a cynic, but I’m impressed every one of this person’s followers are genuine. How can they be so sure?

What initially people thought was just another purge of inauthentic accounts is turning out to be a bug, that Instagram are still rushing to resolve.

However I started writing this piece yesterday, the general assumption was that it was another purge of in-authentic accounts and the reaction that many small businesses on these groups were having to losing followers left me feeling frustrated.


Essentially because everyone I talk to seems to be fixated on having followers rather than concentrating on curating a genuinely engaged audience. I meet so many clients who talk to me about how they need more followers, or are embarrased that they have so few followers only to find when you delve into their data they actually have an audience who are actually pretty engaged.

Why aren’t follower numbers important?

I’m not saying that having many followers isn’t important. It is obviously better to be preaching to the many rather than the few, and the more followers you have the more potential conversions you’re looking at. That’s not to mention the halo effect that comes from them sharing your content with their own following (hint: make content people want to share).

The difference comes when you have 100s or even thousands of followers that are purchased, simply ‘follows for follows, or inauthenic. These followers will never add any tangible value to your business.

Why not?

I guess the obvious answer to that question is to ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve with your social media account. My assumption would be that you’re hoping to either a) drive traffic to your website b) take an action: book an appointment, make a purchase, buy the tickets or c) amplify your brand awareness.

Let’s be real, no-one is sat at work creating daily Instagram posts and stories for people to just look at them, think that’s nice and not even give them a like. Creating that volume of content is a chore and not worth the investment of your time if it’s not providing you a return – so you might as well make sure the people you’re showing it to are even human.

And before you say “well I’m an influencer. I need followers to get work”. Yes, you do. But any good marketeer worth their salt will also be asking you what your engagement is like.

I still don’t understand.

If you’re still not following, in essence those ‘fake’ accounts that were deleted were never going to like, comment, share or most importantly click through and convert.

As average engagement rate = total engagements with a post divided by your total number of followers (x 100). If you have a grossly inflated follower count (made up of fake accounts) this will always detrimentally affect your engagement rate. In short, as long as fake accounts contribute to your total follower numbers you will never be able to get an accurate read on your channel’s engagement rate.


Please never buy followers. Just don’t do it. What’s more, getting rid of them is a painful process.

Keep tabs on your followers as much as possible as they happen you will be able to delete bots (and do us all a favour and report them to Instagram) when they first follow.

tips for spotting a fake INSTAGRAM account:

A fake account that followed my business page this week. If you scroll down there’s a topless shot hidden on the second page.

A fake account that followed my business page this week. If you scroll down there’s a topless shot hidden on the second page.

  • Their handle contains numbers

  • No profile picture

  • Following lots of profiles but few or no posts

  • Lack of post engagement (few comments or likes on their posts)

  • Low quality content (you just can’t imagine anyone realistically wanting to follow this profile)

  • Here are some examples of fake accounts that I have come up against in my own business today:

Is automated INSTAGRAM engagement ok?

In a word. No. Yes in the short term this may help you gain more likes and followers, but in reality you are just going to damage your organic influence in the long term.

Brands and marketers are (like with the bots) recognising this behaviour as spammy. Trust me it is more than annoying. We know it’s not just coincidence that I put out a post and suddenly a load of irrelevant accounts decide to comment or like that post.

However, if risking your account being flagged as spam by Instagram doesn’t persuade you, what about the risk to your brand reputation. It really does make you look a silly posting comments that are completely stupid and so clearly fake.

If you ‘like’ what you’ve read and need help navigating the ever-changing social media landscape get in touch (or maybe follow my Instagram account 😉).