So, here we are. The first blog post of 2018. And what better way to begin than with an unabashed rant filled with rage, resentment and judgement. A change from my usual sweet and docile self, certainly. But with all jokes aside, this is a post that I’ve felt compelled to write for a while now. Because there’s a seriously annoying issue going on in the blogging industry. Something I’m in a big baby huff about. And people will continue to mutter, and murmur, until more people are brave enough to say something. And it’s at that point we all realize we all feel the same. This is not aimed at anyone in particular, it’s just general observation. It’s not meant to name, or shame, or cause whisperings and gossiping. Nobody has time for bitchy nonsense. We’re all grown ups here. It’s merely something to keep in mind when we’re endeavoring to support our favorite bloggers. And it’s something we should all consider, whether we’re PR’s, brands, bloggers, or even those who are ‘influenced,’ shall we say. So join me as I take on ‘The Big Insta Lie’ in my oh so sunny yellow jumper…
The Problem: Bought Followers
In 2018 bloggers are STILL buying followers. Even after last years very public debacle where some of the biggest Insta-stars, were very publicly denounced and accused of buying their numbers. Oh, the drama! Some admitted, and others kept quiet. Others denied, denied, denied. And then there were those who realised their mistake, apologised, and began their accounts all over again, from scratch- which I thought was the most honest, and clever thing to do given the circumstances. I remember one girl had said how she’d viewed buying followers as a business decision, and I understood it to a degree. Brands were paying her to post content, and why would she say no? It was paying off. But no matter how much I can emphathise with someone who I’m sure is a very lovely girl trying to make a living, the reality is, it’s simply not fair. We’re not as naive as we may have been a few years back. And these days buying your followers really isn’t something we can disguise as a business decision. It’s just downright cheating. For me, the most ridiculous part is the fact that these followers aren’t real. In every sense of the word. They will not interact with your account. They are simply there to make the numbers look impressive. And they don’t stick around. Once an influencer gets into the way of buying followers they’ll need to keep buying, because fake accounts tend to just unfollow or Instagram deletes them after a while. It’s a vicious cycle. And it’s a total, and utter waste of time in the long run.
But How Can We Identify Those Who Purchase Followers?
For whatever reason a lot of these fake accounts seem to be Russian or Middle Eastern, and so far away from the UK target market that it seems ridiculous. Suspicious accounts are often void of profile pictures. Handles tend to contain lots of numbers, or have names like likesforinsta2018. And these are the more obvious signs. If we scratch the surface, the website SocialBlade is quite a good indicator for any strange or suspicious jumps in an influencers following. Do they increase by 2k followers in a single day then drop by half in the next week? If so, interesting. There can, of course, be genuine reasons for this. Maybe a big account has shared their photo. ASOS, for example. Just one share from a large Insta like ASOS can generate a huge (valid) jump in stats. Or perhaps the account in question has just held a competition, and when those who entered found out they didn’t win they unfollowed (why u do dat?) Obviously none of this is definitive. Myself, and several of my friends have had an influx of unwelcome fake accounts over the past couple of years. I can remember a couple of years ago literally hundreds and hundreds of unwanted fake accounts flooding my page followed by an ominous message ‘Like what you see? Pay £10 to keep followers and gain more.’ Like, pardon? You’re literally throwing crap, useless, engagement destroying followers at me, and I definitely don’t want them. As I say, there are certain reasons why Social Blade graphs can look odd- and spikes do not always mean bought followers. They can however, on occasion, act as warning signs to keep an eye out for.
The Solution: Engage With Those Who Deserve It
So how do we combat this problem? Don’t bother commenting and liking the accounts who have bought their followers, obviously. You’re only validating their ‘business decision.’ No matter how nice they are as a person. Instead, if there’s someone who’s making the effort to post wonderful content, engage with them. Compliment them. Share their stuff and help them grow. And if you do that for others, they will likely do the same for you. Growth is slow. It is. Just before Christmas I lost almost 200 followers over the course of a month. How will I resolve this? Not by buying a few ‘quickie’ followers, but by taking my time to post better quality pictures and better quality blog posts. And by taking my time to engage with other like-minded bloggers who are trying very, very hard to do what they love, and actually get somewhere with it. Whether they have 100 followers or 100,000.
The Problem: Buying Likes
So onto the next part of my rant. Yippee! Obviously, if you’ve gone down the road of buying followers, then if you’re clever (lol) you’ll be buying likes too. (Otherwise you’ll have amassed 30k followers with each picture averaging at 40 odd likes- yikes). But don’t get me wrong. Low engagement does not neccessarily mean fake followers. Some of my pics are shockers. Absolute bloody shockers. I remember one in particular got 70 something likes which is really bad considering my following is in and around 18k. Could it be something to do with the enigma that is the dreaded algorithm? (DAMN THE BLOODY ALOGORITHM ETC ETC) Or could it be something to do with the fact my picture was just really, really crappy? A Boots n’ Blooms ‘filler pic’, if you will. Maybe a bit of both. Who knows?
But How Can We Identify Those Who Are Buying Likes?
In the first few minutes of posting does an account suddenly get 200 likes, but only total at around 500 odd? Again, as with fake followers, do most of the likers appear from other countries, do they have lots of numbers in their name, no profile pictures e.t.c? Everyone has a certain number of spam accounts linked to their Instagram. But if the likes appear to be more spam, and less obviously genuine, I think alarm bells should ring.
The Solution: Engage, Engage, Engage
So you aren’t getting the likes and don’t want to buy them because that’s a bad thing. How to combat this? A few simple points, really. Post better pics. Engage more with others and they’ll engage more with you. And most importantly (and obviously) don’t buy followers. You’ll get no genuine likes and then have to buy likes, and then become hopelessly entangled in the Big Instagram Lie, never to return again. Tragic.
The Problem: PR’s And Influencer Apps Not Being Savvy Enough
Surely, your role as a PR is to investigate the person you’re effectively employing to represent and promote your business? Isn’t it worth while checking genuine stats before you bring someone in to advertise your perfume, or whatever the case may be? Friendships should be set aside, and things should be done more professionally. I am not a PR. Any PR’s I’ve dealt with directly have been nothing other than professional. But when PR’s, and indeed influencer apps, fail to do their research and call upon accounts with a fake following to promote their brands- no one, aside from the influencer, benefits. Hard earned time, money, and resources are wasted for so many people, simply because someone, somewhere, didn’t do their research. This isn’t even necessarily an individual at fault (although sometimes it is) but often a result of insufficient filters on an app that don’t pick up fake accounts. And it’s terribly, terribly unfair. I know if I was a brand wanting to promote my product or business, I would much rather give my money to someone with an engaged following of 1k rather than someone with a fake following of 60k. It doesn’t take a genius.
How To Identify
Literally, people who’s following is obviously fake getting a hell of a lotta’ work. Day light robbery ya’ll.
The Solution: More Research
What I do know is that there should be more software implemented here. More investigation. More stats. More people presenting their Fohr Card certificate, a website that provides audience demographics, growth, social network stats- and percentage of fake followers. And ultimately, a ‘card’ that shows if your overall following is a genuine one. Social Blade look dodge? Explanations pls.
The Problem: Follow Unfollow. Follow Unfollow.
I see you. Please will you stop that. Maybe if you engage with me and chat to me I will follow back.
The Problem: Fake Comments Galore
There are two kinds of ‘fake’ comments. Bought ones, and ‘pod’ ones. But just what is a pod group? In its simplest form, it’s a group that contains huge numbers of people who are there with the sole purpose of boosting engagement to make their fake accounts look valid. When someone posts a pic, they alert the group, and a huge flurry of likes and comments come a’flyin. Sounds dodge, right? Well it is. Only it needn’t be. Gasp, shock, horror! I keep up to date with a bunch of girls I know personally. There’s maybe 7 of us, and we keep up with the pictures and posts we share, chatting along the way. There is no obligation to like, or comment on anything else. None at all. But I know we like to support each other, and it’s handy for me to catch up with any posts I’ve missed via our chat. The problem for me, is these mass groups with hundreds and hundreds of members who latch onto posts and make engagement look sky high. That for me, is the true problem.
How to Identify Pod/ Bought Comments
Comments tend to be vague and irrelevant- think countless thumbs up emojis. An array of ‘cool photo’ comments. A smattering of ‘this is awesomeness’. Don’t get me wrong, we all get our fair share of odd, lolworthy comments. But when there’s 200 vague and irrelevant one word comments on any one post, then maybe alarm bells should ring.
The Solution: Look to Engage and Support Fellow Bloggers.
There’s a theme here, right? After my pre Christmas Insta-slump where I didn’t comment or engage with anyone and could barely be bothered to post (but that’s another blog post altogether) I realised I wanted to up my game. And I found myself falling in love with Instagram all over again. Kind words of support and encouragement between friends go along way. And if someone elses kind words of encouragement can make my day, then why can’t mine make theres? I don’t for a second believe that comments from other bloggers make your ‘influence’ any less. I can’t count the number of times I have gone and bought a fellow influencers outfit. So I feel that argument is irrelevant. We are not against each other. We are all in support.
And One Last Thing…
If you want to read more on these sort of goings on, both Lydia Millen and Anna Hart have written some (no doubt better informed) fabulous pieces that I found very interesting. I’m hoping this hasn’t come across as a barrage of negativity, despite my jestings at the beginning. Because I’d rather look towards the silver lining that comes out of dishonesty. That silver lining being those of us who work bloody hard to create lovely photos and write engaging content. Those of us who try our best. It’s slow. But it’s sure. And if we go about things the right way then we’ll all bloody well get there. Now. Who’s for Blooms & Boots?