Practical Ecommerce

You Can’t Buy Real Followers and Fans

You cannot buy real Fans and followers. The practice of purchasing Twitter followers and Facebook Fans is called “cherry blossoming.” It will not improve an online store’s business and could destroy a merchant’s reputation.

Social media marketing has become a requirement for many retailers. At least some marketing departments are now measured on the number of new Fans and followers added weekly. The thinking is that large numbers of Fans and followers mean that there is some consumer consensus behind a retailer and, therefore, other shoppers will feel more comfortable making a purchase or following the merchant themselves.

This may be true. But be careful to avoid the temptation to buy followers and Fans.

Don’t Forget About Newt

It was just August 2011 when a former staffer for Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told reporters that the politician’s staff had bought Twitter clout.

“About 80 percent of [the Twitter accounts of Gingrich followers] are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various ‘follow agencies,’ another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves (Newt’s profile just happens to be a part of these networks because he uses them, although he doesn’t follow back), and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich,” the anonymous former staffer reportedly told Gawker just days after the Gingrich campaign had pointed out to the media that it had nearly three times as many Twitter followers as other Republican candidates.

PeekYou, a search agency, reviewed Gingrich’s Twitter account and confirmed the staffer’s claims.

The fake followers were, perhaps, not much more than a speed bump to a presidential candidate. But this sort of revelation could have a great impact on a retailer’s reputation.

Buying Fans and Followers Seems Easy

Part of the temptation is that buying love — in the form of Fans and followers — seems both easy and cheap.

As an example, a multi-channel retailer recently added about 400 new Facebook Fans via a relatively large-scale promotion. The retailer offered up several $50 gifts for randomly selected Facebook Fans and used several channels, including a huge opt-in email list acquired over several years, to let potential customers in its demographic about the Facebook contest. The effort took money, time, and employee resources.

In contrast, promises to deliver 500 new Facebook Fans in just three days for $27. sells Facebook Likes for pennies apiece. sells Facebook Likes for pennies apiece.

“Our mission is to offer our clients the best service available on the web in delivering Facebook Likes and Fans,” the company’s site says. “We believe in providing our clients with the quality service of genuine Facebook Fans to further enforce their social proof, enhance their visibility, online credibility and presence. We hold our values dearly and we believe them to be true.”

The company also has several other sites including BuyRealYouTubeViews and BuyRealTwitterFollowers.

Similarly, Get Fans Fast promises to deliver 1,000 Facebook Fans in seven days for $67.

Get Fans Fast also promises Facebook Fans.

Get Fans Fast also promises Facebook Fans.

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Companies that purchase Fans and followers really get a whole lot of nothing. The reason that social media marketing has been successful is that it puts the real power to engage in the customer’s hands. Yes, merchants can be authentic and give customers reasons to engage, but the control really belongs with the consumers.

This consumer ownership means that followers and Fans are genuinely interested. This genuine interest, in turn, means that social media can — you guessed it — genuinely influence potential customers. It is all about real relationships.

“Fans” purchased from questionable online services cannot be influenced.

If social media is like a cocktail party — as the analogy often goes — all that you’ve done is filled the room with cardboard cutouts.

Summing Up

Recently, The New York Times called attention to the practice of paying incentives for product reviews. Although many other publications and blogs have noted the practice for years, few of these have The Times’ reach. Seeing this practice in plan daylight should give ecommerce marketers pause, and remind them to focus on authentic customer communications that come from real values. Don’t just try to convince people you have great customer service, actually provide great customer service, as an example.

This lesson applies to social media marketing too. Perception — in spite of the oft-quoted saying — is not reality. And the perception that a company has lots of Fans and followers is nothing like actually having customer relationships.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

Bio   •   RSS Feed


Sign up for our email newsletter

  1. Michael O'Connor Clarke February 8, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for this piece. It still baffles me that people would even consider trying to buy an audience – what on earth do they think they’re going to end up with?

    I wrote a rather lengthy piece about this same topic a few months back (here:

    The story had a rather ugly coda to it. In retaliation for calling out the scammers in my blog post, it seemed that they decided to direct their evil, bogus audience engine at me (blogged here: I saw my Twitter following spike by more than 1,200 completely fake accounts almost overnight.

    In addition, they waged a campaign of spam against one of the charity-focused Facebook pages I administer, posting endless semi-pornographic photos and defamatory comments. Oh, and they filed a lovely little post to the RipoffReports site, soaked in lies and libel about me. Just charming.

    Thankfully, when you’ve been active online as long as I have, the solid net karma you build up over time can overwhelm any short-term attempts to game Google results. Their efforts failed and I guess they got bored trying. It made for a genuinely nasty couple of weeks, though.

    So, thanks for fighting the good fight here. I hope they don’t come after you too.

  2. Thomas April 26, 2012 Reply

    Michael you make a good point HOWEVER it depends on what your intentions are on twitter. For instance I have checked certain celebs who are ranked by their "followers" on twitter. What I have found is that many of these followers are eggs or inactive accounts. But we RANK their popularity based on NUMBERS not quality of followers! So if I were a celeb or musician I would say that your "profile" of success on twitter is based on NUMBERS. So for someone in that business it would make sense to purchase the followers as many of the other TOP TWIITTER celebs have done.

  3. Ecigmate Vapor November 28, 2012 Reply

    You are right in saying you can not buy fans/likes that will purchase your products, but what these fans will do is make your fb page or website look very popular, which in turn makes other visitors feel it’s worthy of a closer look because it is popular. You can actually buy real facebook fans which will interact with your fb page, and increase the talking about metrics, again making your fb page look very active and popular.

  4. miglenan December 21, 2012 Reply

    I’m not sure even if you buy real FB fans, they will interact actually. They may sell their accounts as info but who can make them talk and be active. This is a big fraud – the real fans. Once when I received an offer to buy fans for my site $earch my first question was "how the fans will be interested in my emails and promotions if they even don’t know the company and the kind of service it provides?" The answer was that the seller will inform them in advance and they will be active. Impossible to make them feel engaged, I think.