Why You Should NEVER Buy Likes or Followers on Instagram (& What to Do Instead)

The truth about Instagram hacks like buying likes and followers plus how to really grow on Instagram

As Instagram has become more saturated with influencers, it has become increasing difficult to build a big following at a fast pace. It is understandable why someone who is having difficulty growing questions why others have gained a large audience but they have not. You are not alone.

This has become a main issue for a lot of influencers. Finding a way to consistently grow your audience and build your business gets harder and harder every day. However, you should never buy followers on Instagram (or buy likes on Instagram either).

Trust me, buying likes and followers has long term, career damaging effects and is not the solution. We will explore these impacts and talk about what to do instead to grow your following on Instagram.

Buying likes and followers has long term, career-damaging effects. It is not the solution.


Honestly, there is only one pro to buying followers: it appears that you have a large audience that you can share content with. The larger your audience, the more appealing you are as a creator for a brand collaboration.

This initially looks appealing to potential brand partners as they see value in large audiences. In theory, the brand or product is showcased to more people and gets a larger reach.

Unfortunately the list of cons FAR outweighs that one pro. Don’t get me wrong, this might have worked in the past. However, once there were a bunch of brand collaborations that under performed by a large margins, the brands started to look into why.

The only pro of buying followers is that your account looks big. It really isn't though.


Once influencing became a more established career option where you can make good money sharing with your audience, businesses developed a way to “help” influencers grow their audience and engagement. The reason I put “help” in quotes is because buying followers or likes is only a short term solution, but it has long term damaging impacts.

After having so many influencer campaigns under perform, brands started asking questions. Why didn’t the content drive any engagement? Why did no one buy the product or even visit the campaign link?

It was because there was no TRUE engagement. The followers were bought to make the profile look appealing, but the influencer cannot drive any real results with many of their followers being bots or inactive accounts. Because of this, there is no way for these bots and inactive accounts to comment, like, view a story, swipe up, or click the link from your bio (unless you pay for the bots to do that as well).

As this practice of buying followers became more public, the media started looking into it more and researching what happened. There are lots of articles written about the battles between software that detects fake followers and software that buys/creates fake followers.

WIRED wrote an article back in September of 2019 where they stated, “A report by cybersecurity firm Cheq projects that these fake fans will cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019 alone.” This means brands will spend 1.3 billion dollars on ads with limited or even no reach due to purchased followers.

You don't want to upset brands with Instagram hacks like fake followers & fake engagement. It gives you a bad reputation.

Imagine how upset brands and PR agencies are facing this reality. This is why software has been developed so that brands can plug in your account name and determine how legit your following really is. This allows them to protect themselves and ensure authentic results.

Even simple tools like this one from HypeAuditor attempts to show how authentic your account is out of 100. Read the “Note” section below the tool to see how they come to this answer.

These tools are still fighting to win the battle against fake followers. It is quite difficult to know how authentic an audience is, and I am sure you can run some quality influencer names through the tool and get a high score.

Keep in mind that this does NOT necessarily mean they are buying followers. The tool finds trends that support an inauthentic audience, but it is not perfect.

Another con to buying followers is that is lowers your engagement rate (average combination of likes and comments on your posts). This number is becoming more and more important to brands when they look at who to work with and who to trust.

Buying followers lowers your engagement rate. Brands want to see higher engagement

Imagine you had 30K followers and a 5% engagement rate, but you had a hard time growing your account. You buy 20K followers to get to the 50K mark. You feel great about seeing 50,000 followers when you look at your account.

This decision comes with serious consequences though. Now your engagement rate has dropped by 3%. From a brand perspective, the 30K influencer with 5% engagement is a better fit and more likely to drive great awareness of the brand and product than a 50K influencer with only 2% of their audience engaging with their content.

Why does it drop off when you buy followers? When your account grows naturally, your engagement can grow naturally with it. Because the followers are real, they see your posts and engage with them or watch your stories.

When you buy followers, you get a huge boost in following, but the bots and inactive accounts do not engage. Because they do not engage, Instagram sees that as less people are interested in your content.

This makes Instagram not show your content as much or as often because it wants to show content that keeps people on the platform. This is also true of doing the big loop giveaways.

But there’s a way to fix that right? Just buy some likes too, right? Wrong.

When your Instagram followers do not engagement, Instagram shows your posts to less people.


“It’s okay, I’ll just buy likes to drive my engagement back up.” Yes, you could do this, but likes are becoming less important.

In fact, Instagram removed likes in many countries starting in 2019. They are continuing to remove likes around the world. Because likes are not displayed for many users, they are less likely to like a post unless they really care about it.

With Instagram likes going away, buying likes makes no sense. Plus, you are throwing money away.

Engagement is still a huge part of determining the success of a post or campaign, but imagine buying 10K likes for your post and only getting 15 comments. The brand comes to you and asks for stats.

You send them a screenshot, but they are confused because you had high likes and no one engaged with comments. The brand realizes you likely received such high likes in an inauthentic way. Having one of these experiences with a brand or agency can tarnish you as a trustworthy and authentic influencer.

Not only this, but buying followers and likes becomes a never ending process. You need to continue purchasing for each post or it really looks suspicious when only your brand collabs have huge amounts of likes.

Over time, it gets expensive. What are you getting in return for your “investment”? Nothing but more money out of your pocket to get the results you want. With less money coming in from brand collaborations due to an untrustworthy opinion of your account, you are losing money without really gaining anything in return.

Don't get stuck in the cycle of buying likes and followers. It is hard to get out once you are in it.


There are actually a couple of other ways influencers have found to grow their accounts and increase engagement. These are not as detrimental to your reputation, but they still drive untrue followers and engagement percentages.

Comment pods are when a group of influencers decide to be in a group where they notify others when they post. Then they all comment in the first hour or so to drive higher engagement at the beginning.

Because the comments come from real people, it is harder to detect pods. It can take time away from more valuable tasks though when you have to constantly engage with the same group of people over and over again instead of new potential followers.

Instagram comment pods take up time that could be spent better elsewhere and give you inauthentic engagement.

I’m sure you have seen group giveaways before, but it is when a group of influencers join together with a travel company or brand partner and do a giveaway with 10 – 30 influencers. It might be a product package or a cash giveaway that the influencers all donated to as well.

In order to enter the giveaway, you must follow all of the accounts. Influencer participate in these because there is a potential to grow by a few thousand followers in a short period of time.

There are also companies that put these together where you buy in and can be a secret partner. This lets you hide that you are doing a giveaway, but giveaways are also easy to detect with software that shows fast gains in growth (similar to purchasing followers).

Instagram giveaways gain you lots of followers, until they unfollow when the giveaway ends.

The main issue with these giveaways is that many people unfollow as soon as it is over. The people did not follow you except to win something, so they are not likely to be engaged, authentic followers. This hurts your engagement as you gained followers quickly who again do not engage with your content.

With some of the giveaways, you also never know if the winner was chosen and the free prize was actually sent or received. This makes it look bad on the influencers involved since it looks like you only cared about the growth and not about giving back to their followers.

If you really want to do a giveaway, do it with a small group of friends you trust. Make it about giving back to your community and not about growth. Show the process of completing the giveaway so that your audience knows they can trust you to actually give away what you promised.

Instagram giveaways should be about giving back to your audience and not about gaining followers


The reality is, moving forward, likes are becoming less important and truly engaged comments, saves, shares, link clicks, and swipe-ups, which are easily tracked, are becoming driving factors for campaigns.

If you have not been through a brand collaboration yet (or even if you have), when money is on the line, brands expect results and look for:


People speaking about the product or service in your comments for paid partnerships or even just talking to you about your caption or image drives true and authentic engagement. Interact with your audience and drive real conversations, especially when it comes to brand partnerships.


Saves are when someone saves your post for later. This could be related to the location you visited, the caption you shared, or even a product they want to remember for later. For brands, this is a strong stat that you should share with them in your final reports so they can see that people saved your branded post to come back to later.


Instead of saving a post for themselves, shares are when people send your content to a friend or group of people. This is almost stronger than a save because that follower was inspired to share that piece of content with someone they know. This is another strong state to share with brand partners.


If you are running a campaign where you are driving people to click a link in your bio or swipe up in stories, these stats can be great for showing off conversion (how many followers you converted into potential buyers or users).

If you get 100 people clicking your link from a campaign, that is awesome! You inspired someone to learn more about the product or service and did your job. You influenced them to leave the app and view something else.

Find unique ways to get people to swipe up and learn more or to head to the link in your bio. If you have a strong conversion rate from link clicks and swipe ups, that is a VERY important part of selling yourself to brands for future partnerships.

Share the stats for both link clicks and swipe ups for the brand partnership to show that you drove traffic to the product or service.

Brands look for real Instagram engagement through saves, comments, sends, link clicks and swipe ups.


You will hear me say this over and over. The only true way to grow is to commit and be consistent. Focus on the quality of the content and the value you bring to your audience. Forget about numbers, forget about money, and focus on building the most engaged and authentic audience you can.

Keep delivering high quality and valuable content for them to digest. This will take your business where you want it to go. Remember the saying, “quality over quantity” exists for a reason.

Focus on quality content and providing value to your audience. Quality over quantity wins on Instagram.

Just remember, you got this. This can be a very lonely and tough industry. You have to WORK to be the 1% that are truly successful at influencing.

Don’t get down on yourself – keep your head up and keep grinding. If you put in the work, it will eventually come. In the long run, you will be much happier that you did not take these short cuts.

Don't take short cuts. Put in the work. Don't get down on yourself. Remember: you've got this.


If you have already purchased followers or likes, or if you have participated in big giveaways or comment pods, it is not too late. Start fresh today by not giving in to the temptation anymore. Start growing authentically and invest in providing value to your audience.

Comment below with your experiences with any of these “Instagram hacks” or with your feelings about them.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Amy

    When I first started out, I use to do loop giveaways and engagement pods because I wanted to grow my following. Once I realized that I was attracting the wrong type of people ie: people that just wanted to win whatever the giveaway was, I stopped. I want a true following of like minded people in my niche. Although my following is growing slowly, I’m happier because I can actually connect and have conversations with people in my Niche

  2. Amy

    As a new influencer in the travel industry. What is the best way to finding/reaching out to PR agencies to work with?

    1. Josh Watson

      Hi Amy! Great question! The best way would be to search agencies/tourism boards in the countries you are planning to travel to and just introduce yourself. When at home, build a great relationship with the PR agencies that are in your home state/country and ask to get on their invite and gifting lists. Ask them out to coffee. Put the work into the relationship and hope that in turns helps you.

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