Should You Buy Facebook Likes or Twitter Followers?

It’s a rainy summer day, and I’ve got a problem.  There’s only twenty Likes on the Siteturner Facebook page, and, last I checked, one Twitter follower.  The situation is dismal, and the past week I’ve been mulling over an age old question: should I buy Facebook likes?

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar dilemma, also considering this tempting social marketing shortcut.  You’ve said to yourself: It’s not as if buying Facebook likes and Twitter followers is illegal!  Everybody else is doing it!  It can’t do any harm!

Well, you’re right about the first two things: it isn’t illegal to buy Facebook likes, and lots of other people are doing it, so we’ll leave most of the ethical and philosophical musings for another day.  It could be argued that there’s little difference between buying Likes and the old-fashioned advertising used to build a company’s image and brand.  It’s just business as usual.   Deception is nothing new: believe it or not, the cheerful mothers in Tide commercials are not washing their own clothes, and some of those stains will never come out.

The practice of buying Likes, however, is explicitly against Facebook’s terms of service, and if they catch you, they just might kill your page.  This would be a stone cold bummer if you’ve already built any kind of audience previously, or have contributed a lot of content and time to the page the past.  But even this may be beside the point: risk of penalty aside, is it worth it to buy Facebook likes and Twitter followers in general?

Let’s take a quick look at a couple very good reasons to avoid buying Likes and followers, and then move on to one very compelling reason in support of it.

There’s a Very Good Chance That Paid Followers Are Not Real, Active Users

In order to make an informed decision, it’s first helpful to understand exactly what you’re buying and how the magic happens.  Doesn’t getting thousands of active, engaged fans and followers for the cost of a Fiverr sound too good to be true?

In many instances where an individual or company is promising hundreds, if not thousands, of likes and followers, these likes are going to be coming from a low quality sources.  At the most worthless end of the spectrum, you’ve got bots: not exactly a demographic known for its engaging conversation, or large disposal income.   Somewhere in the middle, there’s click farms that set up thousands of fake profiles with the sole purpose of liking fan pages and following other Twitter users.  This method often results in a Facebook page or Twitter account having a profoundly skewed demographic of fans, with as many as 80% of the fans coming from a single city in Egypt or India.  That would look kind of fishy, wouldn’t it?

On the upper end – and this where my own interest was piqued – you can get real followers who are using active accounts from all over the world, including the USA, UK and Canada (Fiverr providers often use promotional services like http://www.youlikehits.com/ to their advantage).  You often pay more for less of these high quality subscribers, maybe 100 for your five bucks as opposed to 1000, but that still sounds pretty good, right?

The Truth About Real, Active Accounts from the USA and UK

The reality is that the majority of these new fans, real as they may be, in most cases will never engage with anything you’re posting.  Being completely un-targeted, they’re not the least bit interested in whatever it is you’re selling (figuratively or literally).  Now, it is worth mentioning that the level of engagement will vary depending on your niche, and the owner of entertainment blog who posts content with widespread appeal might find more value in paid Likes than the inventor of an esoteric widget.  There are going to be those who report that they’ve had a lot of success buying Likes and followers.  They’re a lucky few and in the minority.   In general, paid likes and followers will never comment on your wall posts, like your photos and memes, retweet, or do much at all but gradually drop off every time you make a post.   Even sellers on Fiverr admit that buyers will experience drop off.

At this point you may be asking:  so what? At least it makes my page or website look more popular, and for only five dollars.

Well, listen.  To add insult to injury, because of the Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, these disengaged fans can actually make it more difficult for your real fans to see to your posts.  Many Facebook admins assume that when they post to their page, the post will go out to all of their fans’ news feeds.  Unfortunately, though the algorithm is too complex to examine here, that’s simply not how it works.  Your fake fans can and will prevent you from interacting with your real ones, and those fake likes will lower your Edgerank.

Not very enticing now, is it?  You’re probably leaning away from those Fiverr gigs.  But not so fast.  There’s at least one compelling reason to participate in the shady Facebook Like trade.

Social Proof

From Wikipedia:

Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.

This is more commonly referred to as herd behaviour or herd mentality.  The bottom line is that the more Likes you have on Facebook, or the more followers you have on Twitter, the more likely a person viewing the page will be to click the Like button.   People will assume value based on the fact that others have liked the page before them.  It leaves them with the impression of authority.

I think, intuitively, you and I have already known this to be true, which is why we’re considering buying the Likes to begin with.  Although I can’t pull a precise memory, and anecdotal evidence isn’t worth a whole lot to begin with, I‘m certain that I’ve behaved this way myself on a number occasions.

It’s quite a pickle to be in: in order to get Likes, you need to have Likes.  It’s a bit reminiscent of the way the old adage it takes money to get money.  And this is why, even after careful consideration of the cons listed above, I’m still asking myself: should I buy Facebook likes?

Verdict

A Facebook page or a Twitter account with a paltry amount of Likes or followers, and almost no activity, is a sad sight indeed.  Yet, it seems clear that bought Likes and followers have no real long term value.  They’ll drop off gradually, engage very little, and even can do some damage to your EdgeRank, preventing real fans from seeing your content.

But if you’re just starting out, there is an argument to be made for buying Likes to use as a springboard.  Buy them once, just to provide social proof to your visitors and get things moving.  Choosing a well-reviewed, recommend provider on Fiverr that stresses real, active users, and offers lower numbers (for example, 100 real followers from the USA) will undoubtedly have fewer negative consequences than buying 10,000 vibrant red flags.

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