Instagram’s new algorithm uses engagement as the most important metric to determine a post’s popularity. Essentially, the more likes and comments your posts get, the more your posts will be seen by a larger audience.
The importance of engagement is why it doesn’t surprise me that buying likes might seem like a tempting option. It’s just not a good one.
There’s no denying that likes are critical to the success of your Instagram account. For instance, let’s say you work for a smoothie shop and want to post a delicious smoothie recipe on Instagram to attract the engagement of a health-conscious audience.
If your healthy smoothie post gets a ton of likes, it’ll have a better chance of competing with other top posts with similar hashtags, and might even appear on Instagram’s Explore page. The Explore page, which you can find on Instagram by clicking on the magnifying-glass symbol, is a compilation of posts you’ve liked and posts liked by accounts with which you often interact. Since the Explore page shows users posts their followers like, it’s an effective way for your business to reach a new audience.
But while having a bunch of likes is valuable, it’s only a productive marketing strategy if you’ve achieved them organically.
Buying Instagram likes might seem like a good method to increase engagement, but it’s actually a dangerous tactic that can do quite the opposite, decreasing your engagement and destroying your brand’s reputation.
This post from HubSpot covers the two ways users currently buy Instagram likes, and how taking either road can poke holes in your marketing strategy.
How to Buy Instagram Likes
There are two types of services you can use to buy likes on Instagram. The first type of service sells likes from fake accounts. The second type of service sells Instagram bots, which then follow real accounts and like other people’s posts for you (with the expectation that these people will then follow and like your posts, in return).
There are numerous companies out there that offer one of these services. I’m here to warn you about them all. Let’s dive into both services and see why they’re so unsafe.
1. Buy Instagram Likes from Fake Accounts
The first method, paying a service to get likes from fake accounts, is a ineffective and risky option. Since these accounts are fake, you won’t receive engagement in the form of comments, and if your real followers see you have a post with 1,000 likes but only two comments, they’re going to feel distrustful of your account’s authenticity. Even worse, fake accounts will never turn into real customers. The likes you receive from fraudulent accounts are invalid signs of customer loyalty, and won’t help you measure your post’s true performance.
If your real audience discovers some of your likes are from bogus accounts (which is easy to recognize, if these fake accounts don’t have profile pictures or posts of their own), your business could seem cheap or insincere. As a consumer, I don’t want to purchase from your business if your marketing tactics are shady. Plus, if I see your followers are fake, I’m going to assume you don’t sell high-quality products -- if you don’t believe in the quality of your brand enough to attract real people, why should I?
Ultimately, these fake followers can’t buy your product or endorse you in real life, which doesn’t set your business up for long-term success.
Here’s an example of pricing for a service, Likeservice24, that offers fake-account likes in bulk:
You can see the pricing is fair ($66 for 20,000 likes), but, in the long haul, it’s not a sustainable or reputable marketing tactic.
2. Buy Instagram Bots to Follow Other People’s Accounts
There’s an unwritten “I follow you, you follow me” rule that exists on Instagram, which basically means if someone follows me, I feel obligated to follow them in return. Many people feel the same way when following other accounts on Twitter. And it’s the premise of this second method.
With this service, you’re essentially buying a bot to follow other people’s accounts, with the hope that these accounts will follow and like your posts in return. The bot basically acts as an invisible minion, following accounts from your profile and liking and commenting on posts as if it were you.
After these Instagram bots follow a bunch of accounts, they’ll eventually unfollow them, to ensure you have a better follow-to-follower ratio.
This method shares the same risky and long-term complications as the buying likes from fake accounts tactic, but there are additional dangers to using a bot. For one, the bot only knows how to “auto comment” and “auto like.” Your bot, acting as you, is not a real person and can’t understand various nuances that exist in language, which could lead to PR-related misshaps when you realize your bot engages with an account that posts inappropriate content.
For instance, the bot might start liking any posts with hashtags that you’ve programmed it to like. This could cause your bot to like irrelevant posts that don’t support your brand’s values, or even hateful accounts that post content your customers would find offensive.
Even worse, if the bot is “auto commenting” for you, it might misconstrue a post’s intent: for instance, if the word “happy” is in someone’s post about their beloved pet who recently passed away, the bot might comment, “That’s awesome, congrats!”
Below is an example of a service, Instazood, that provides bots for as little as $10. (Low price, high risk, am I right?)
There are other services to buy Instagram likes, but ultimately, you shouldn’t trust a bot or fake accounts to receive authentic engagement. When looking at the top Instagram posts of all time, none of these posts had to buy their likes or engagement.
The Three Biggest Reasons Buying Instagram Likes is a Bad Idea
Besides the hazards I just mentioned, there are three big-picture problems with buying Instagram likes regardless of the service.
First, Instagram might deactivate your account if they suspect you’re not using honest methods to build a following and attract engagement. Since 2014, Instagram has been hunting for and deactivating millions of fake accounts on Instagram, and paying for likes goes against Instagram’s Community Guidelines. They want their platform to remain a place for authentic connections, and so should you.
Second, it’s not a sustainable marketing strategy: ultimately, your long-term goals should revolve around creating deep, meaningful relationships with your audience, turning this audience into real-life customers, and creating a customer service process to ensure these customers become brand advocates.
None of these outputs will come to fruition if your likes are from fake accounts.
Lastly, buying Instagram likes can actually hurt your engagement ratio. Instagram doesn’t measure how many likes each post gets. Rather, it measures how many likes each post gets in relation to how many followers you have.
This means if your posts start receiving 10,000 likes, but you only have 1,000 followers, your posts are going to be seen by fewer people, and are less likely to get discovered.
Here’s a graph from InfluencerDB to illustrate the like-to-follower ratio:
Ultimately, buying likes in an effort to increase engagement can actually decrease engagement, destroying the one thing you’re trying to get. Ironic, I know. So skip the shady shortcut to social media marketing, and use a more long-term but sustainable plan for attracting organic likes from real people. After all, those real people are the only ones who can become real customers.