The Rise of the Fake Blogger – buying fake followers, using bots, engagement pods?!

So today’s post is something a little different. It’s something that keeps cropping up, and I talk about a lot with other bloggers and thought it was only right I do a post on this topic. I am speaking as openly and honestly about the rise of the blogging industry and what people are doing to be seen as successful and more importantly, to make money. It is the rise of the fake followers and the fake bloggers!

I’m not going to lie, blogging is an amazing job and was recently voted by under 18s as the most desirable job. So you can see why more and more people are actively trying to pursue it as a career. & in turn more and more people are opting for skipping the hard work and taking a little ‘cheat’ with fake followers.

Is it possible to con your way through the industry and make money from it? The sad answer is yes, and rather easily.

FAKE BLOGGERS 

Is that such a thing? How is possible for someone to be a fake blogger you are probably thinking. & well technically, I guess anyone who blogs online about something can be categorised as a ‘blogger’, but we cannot deny the amount of people who are really making use of the ‘fake it till you make it’ phrase.

Bloggers all over the world are opting for fake engagement and fake followers rather than organically growing. It is surprisingly easy to buy fake followers, likes, comments, and even instagram story or snapchat views. Yes, I know, crazy.

I googled buy followers, and was shocked at how many sites popped up which were so easy to navigate and at such low prices! You can literally buy something like 2000 followers for £1 and something crazy like 50,000 followers for £50!

Now as a blogger myself, if you have 50,000 followers I know that you can quite literally make a living from your instagram account alone. When I was at around 35,000 followers I left my office job and starting blogging full time.

 Now this is a whole separate post on the money making side of blogging that I would love to do another day. But to put it frankly, being a decent blogger with good content in this current day with 50k followers, well let’s just say you can pay the rent each month..

So in a way, can you blame some people for paying £50 for fake followers when in return their income could be a decent amount?? It’s an interesting debate. Because it is so easy for people to do, but so damaging to the rest of us working hard for a genuine career.

Now I would never name names, it’s just not my style and some of these bloggers I am actually friends with, but I know they have bought followers. From going to messaging me asking for a shout out on my own page and having under 10k followers, to suddenly having over 200,000 followers in a couple of months? With no massive campaign, no re-posts from one of the kardashians or justin bieber or something crazy like that. Well, I’m sorry but that kind of growth just doesn’t exist!

If you click on their likes and look through them, so many of them are weird accounts you can tell are fake. For example they follow a few thousand people and have no followers themselves and/or they have no profile picture. And getting something like 2000 likes in 5 minutes is also a little dodge if you ask me! These are all the signs of a ‘fake blogger’.

I also have a few blogger friends who have openly joked with me about buying some of their followers! I’m like… erm ok…

It’s hard to not feel bitter when it has been something I have been so against. I have even had friends say to me “why don’t you just do it? Why don’t you just buy 5000 followers to just take you up to that next landmark” But I just can’t. I don’t agree with it and I would just feel so wrong about it!

The thing that is crazy is these bloggers don’t just have all these followers and then low engagement. People are clever about it and it’s super hard to spot if you don’t really know what you’re looking for. E.g. poor brands who pay these bloggers money might have no idea until it’s too late and they spend a lot on the campaign for a very small return.

These bloggers can easy as pie buy their likes to match their fake followers. From the click of a button on an app, to monthly subscription services. There are plenty of ways of doing it.

One of the things I find most amusing is the ‘engagement pods’ that bloggers use to support each other and make it look like they have amazing engagement. These are basically groups of bloggers in instagram DM groups, whatsapp or telegram groups. Every time they upload a new picture they will share it in the group and everyone will like it and comment on it. Tell tale signs of bloggers who are doing this will be bloggers who have a crazy amount of comments in relation to their following, and if you click on the comments you will see it’s all other blogger accounts commenting and very few are actual non blogger accounts (small follower accounts) who have commented as a genuine follower!

I don’t mind being in a small one such as with say under 10 other bloggers who you know, to support each other I think is nice. But I have been invited to telegram groups with literally like 300 people from all over the world commenting on each other’s photos.

So there we have it, that’s how easy it is to fake a following. Of course, hard work goes into producing the content. But I just don’t think it’s right to be charging brands a large amount of money for promotion to an audience who are mostly not active accounts.

I know someone with probably 80% fake followers making as much as sometimes £800 for a post alone. Crazy right?

& with this specific person I remember instagram had a big clear out of fake accounts and they dropped about from about 250k to 20k, and then within a few days was back to the original amount.

 

Thankfully, instagram seems to be cracking down on this as recently I have heard of such a thing called the ‘shadow ban’. Which, for some annoying reason I seem to have been affected  by as well as lots of other good bloggers I know where our engagement is down! Apparently, this can be caused by even using the same hashtags too many times, or having your instagram logged into 3rd party apps. So some apps that do something as simple as even keeping track of your following etc can be detrimental to your engagement and cause you to have a shadow ban. Whole other post coming on this soon as this is another topic I really need to talk about it!!

But as I was saying, instagram is cracking down and shutting down all the fake follower apps.

There was also a big thing recently that a lot of people used to use which were basically ‘instagram bots’. These bots were logged in on your account and they would actively follow and unfollow people for you, like people’s photos with a certain hashtag i.e. #fashion, they could even comment on people’s photos on your behalf all automatically through a  ‘bot’ (computer system).

A lot of bloggers were using these, which I personally do understand to an extent as I think it’s just a way of getting your account seen and those people still had to click on your profile and decide whether they wanted to follow you. It has been a big uproar in the blogger industry of some big bloggers being found out to have been using these bots to manage their instagram accounts. It was funny because once I knew about it I noticed accounts doing it. If you clicked on the ‘activity’ option on instagram to see what people were liking, they would be liking hundreds of photos constantly and some would be really weird photos where the bot had obviously messed up! I even saw someone comment ‘awesome photo’ on someone’s RIP picture to their nan. That’s an example of the damage a bot can do and why they are against instagram’s policy.

 

Of course, once brands have worked with these bloggers and not seen a great result, it is unlikely they will want to continue working with such blogger. But, there are plenty of brands around so it is possible for these ‘fakers’ to keep getting paid work with new brands.

What do you think of these fake bloggers buying fake followers? Other than it being detrimental to the industry’s credibility as a whole, it is incredibly disheartening to all the genuine bloggers out there and also potentially damaging if more and more brands pay ‘fake bloggers’ it could eventually put off all brands.

The solution? In my opinion the best way to check someone’s engagement is firstly do they have between 1-2% likes in relation to their following? Who is commenting on their photos? Do they have lots of other bloggers? Then some part of their engagement isn’t genuine. Check their followers. Ask for their stats if they have a business account.

& hopefully instagram can continue to remove inactive accounts and fake followers but also remove their shadow ban from accounts who shouldn’t be suffering!!

 

Toula Rose xo

Follow me on instagram! @toularose

 

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