There is a common misconception that the more followers you have on social media the more influential you are as a brand. There are many articles and YouTube videos out there telling you how to “Gain 100k followers in 24 hours” or “15 ways to get real Instagram followers”.

Yes, numbers are important but in the right place.

At first glance, 1 million followers looks amazing but when a post isn’t even getting 1000 likes it makes you wonder just how many of the followers are actually engaging with the content that is being produced.

Followers can be paid, bot accounts or accounts who only want a follow back. In January of this year, the New York Times led an investigation called ‘The Follower Factory’ which looked into the “black market” of social media. They found that there are companies such as Devumi that sell Twitter followers, retweets and likes to celebrities, brands, influencers; anyone who wants a large social media following. They found that Devumi has a stock of over “3.5 million automated accounts” and have provided customers with more than “200 million Twitter followers.” According to the report, these accounts sometimes use the information of real Twitter users, such as their names, profile pictures and personal details.

Whilst fake accounts can give the impression of online popularity, the lack of engagement gives it away. So, is there much point of having a large following that isn’t actually interested in what you are posting?

Investigations such as this one make you question whether the money spent on fake followers and likes would be better spent on creating creative content that will get real people talking, commenting – engaging. This would not only help to increase organic growth and reach but also promote the brand as authentic.

Social media is always changing which means brands need to be able to adapt and quickly too. Recent changes mean that brands do now need to invest money into social media when it comes to things like advertising and sponsoring just to get their content seen.

Anyone can buy followers and with the recent crackdown on bot accounts, fake followers are now being noticed and watched more than ever. Brands that use them are appearing less genuine as people are becoming wiser to the differences between a fake profile and a real one.

Take micro-influencers for instance. Those on Instagram who have over 10,000 followers but under 100,000. It’s thought that those with a smaller following come across as more personable and therefore have built up a loyal follower base who may share similar styles and interests. This group of influencers are attracting the attention of brands who are realising the benefits of quality over quantity.

Organic growth may take longer but in the long run, you’ll have an audience that is largely engaging with your posts rather than a large audience with zero engagement.

Which would you rather?