ByJune 23, 2017 6 Comments

So you’re just starting out on Instagram and need to get things off the ground. Thinking of paying for followers and engagement? Think again my friend.

Why do people pay for followers and engagement?

As we spoke about previously in our post on social automation, some people turn to dedicated tools to make their lives easier, like automated publishers and even automatic follows, unfollows, likes and comments.

Although using tools that publish automatically to your social media accounts is a great time saver and pretty much a God send in the eyes of most social media marketers, automating your engagement and follows can be a dangerous game… And paying for followers and engagement is the next step up from that. Paid engagement is often a port of call for new businesses just getting started on Instagram.

Recently, this image appeared on Twitter, showing a vending machine for Instagram followers and likes spotted in Russia. This kind of thing is prohibited by Instagram but that doesn’t stop it being common practice for many users of the platform.

But who are these followers who accept to be bought and sold on Instagram? Who’s giving these likes that people so willingly pay for? The answer is simple: they’re computers! “Bots” is the given term actually: Instagram accounts created by humans and run by computers.

So it’s no surprise that Instagram expects to hit 1 billion users before the end of the year 2017 – a good percentage of these “users” are probably not real people. In a study carried out here at Iconosquare, we were able to estimate that 40% of comments left on Instagram brand accounts were potentially “fake” (left by bots).

Pros & Cons


  • If you’re in need of a quick “social proof” fix with no effort involved, you can get your numbers up fast.
  • Your engagement rate will rise, making you look good (even though the engagement isn’t real).


  • You could get banned. Instagram actually has the power to delete accounts it believes to be breaking the rules. There are limits on how many actions you can take on Instagram in a short amount of time… And you better believe they’ll notice if you jump from 0 to 20,000 followers in a day!
  • As mentioned above, your follower count will rise and so will your engagement rate, however these figures aren’t “real”. Fake followers and fake engagement won’t make your Instagram account successful. In fact, it’ll be pretty obviously fake since you won’t have any genuine comments on your posts.
  • If it’s social proof you’re looking for – this kind of behavior will do your e-reputation more harm than good.


So it’s pretty clear that buying fans and paying for likes is a big no-no from the list of cons above. If you want to get your Instagram account off the ground there are much better ways of doing so – none of which will harm your future on social.

If you’re already using Instagram for business and need a hand mastering all the different options the app has to offer, check out our ebook on How to Use Instagram for Business!

And don’t forget to share your tips for growing your Instagram with other readers below!

Emily Lydon

Author Emily Lydon

Emily is an Inbound Marketer for Iconosquare, based in the Limoges office. She loves all things social and revels in keeping on top of the social media marketing game by writing for the blog. She’s also a bit obsessed with sushi, gin and Netflix.

More posts by Emily Lydon
  • This is great advice. We may not like the Instagram rules but they are making it more inclusive and more difficult to game which leads to a more inclusive community.

    • Emily Lydon

      Totally agree!

  • Jan

    What you think about IG pods?

  • Very important post. Thank you so much for the insight, the most important thing in instagram is to provide real value.

  • Johann

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you for the brief article! I would like to ask you something more specific. There are hundreds of ‘blue badge’ profiles mainly of celebrities. I have payed attention to their millions of followers and what I found out is that the majority of their followers are fake. The users who follow them actually have no posts or very little. These same users follow mainly other blue badge account. This awkward situation makes me wonder many questions.. What is the meaning behind all of this? Why IG allows it and prohibits the ‘smaller’ users when it is so obvious?

    • Emily Lydon

      Hi Johann, thanks for your comment!

      “Fake” accounts are a big problem for Instagram, especially when they mass follow/unfollow/like and comment on genuine accounts’ posts. Instagram does deactivate accounts that ‘break the rules’, but it’s more complicated to identify and ban them on such a large scale. I hope this answers your question, although I know it doesn’t help the problem itself!


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