Is it worth it to buy Instagram followers, or is it a total scam?

Instagram app
Instagram app (Image credit: Instagram)

If you're someone who's addicted to Instagram – or just someone who uses it daily – then you've probably at least once or twice crept your friends' accounts and compared follower/following numbers.

If you haven't, congrats! You're not shallow like I am! But you have to admit, it's hard not to put such an importance on your follower/following number when it's the first thing you see on someone's profile. Even when a person's profile is private, you still see their follower and following count.

Whether Instagram admits it or not, this is kind of a quick way to weed out who you may want to follow: "Yeah, sure their posts are alright, but why are they following 21,000 people and only have 450 followers? That's kind of weird…"

Again, if you're not someone who cares about this, congratulations! But besides my own personal account (and ego), keeping track of the number of people you follow and the number of people who follow you back is something big companies and businesses have done since the beginning of time– er, Instagram.

Having a large following means that you have more clout and influence online; you have more people tagging your products to get a shout out, you have more people commenting on your posts as they're more likely to appear on the featured page, and you have essentially a chunk of FREE ad space that has the potential to attract millions upon millions of followers.

Take the makeup brand Colorpop, which, 3 years ago, was unheard of – until it it popped up on Instagram:

… the almost two-year-old, Los Angeles-based brand ColourPop, burst onto Instagram in all of its colorful glory and captured the hearts — and lips — of seemingly everyone. While beauty influencers raved almost unanimously about the inexpensive products, an undercurrent of suspicion and conspiracy theories popped up surrounding ColourPop. (Fashionista)

The brand runs its advertisements almost entirely through its posts on its Instagram account, and in less than 2 years has garnished a cult following and 4.7 million loyal shoppers — all thanks to the power of Instagram.

So having some bulk on Insta is clearly beneficial, but how do you get big numbers quickly? Make quality, well-thought out posts? Use clever hashtags and try to figure out Instagram's stupid algorithm? Engage, socialize, and interact with the followers you have already?

… Or, y'know, just buy some.

What are 'bought' followers?

When you buy Instagram followers, essentially you're paying for a bunch of accounts to follow you that exist for the sole purpose of being bought.

Some may look super spammy and have a bunch of numbers in the name with one or two posts with things like "BUY FOLLOWERS 2DAY!!!!!" while others look just like regular accounts, have a couple of photos, and even have followers and comments.

There are also things like click farms, which are popular in China, and they provide hundreds of profiles to people who are looking to buy some clout online.

Step 1: Picking a site

The sites that caught my eye were Buzzoid, which "offers the best Instagram likes in the market", IDGIC, Audience Gain, and ProFollower.

I decided to go with Buzzoid, as it was one of the first ones I clicked on and everything looked prim and proper on the site; however, in hindsight, I wish I would have found IG Reviews before I made my decision. I also read quite a few reviews on Buzzoid, all which were pretty mixed across the board.

At the end of the day, buying Instagram followers is always going to be a wee bit shady, as Instagram has made a habit of cleaning up the spam accounts that you pay to follow you, which is kind of like them saying it's not really allowed. But is it illegal like some people try to claim it is? Nope.

IG Reviews:

The idea that buying followers is illegal is a complete myth. Though buying followers does violate the Instagram Terms of Service, getting banned can easily be avoided by purchasing high-quality followers from a reputable vendor. Ultimately, followers are not a huge risk for your account getting banned regardless of quality. Comments, however, can be, so be sure to know the risks and buy from a reputable provider if you decide to go that route.

Step 2: Choosing your number of followers

One thing that's pretty consistent across all of these sites are follower "packages" for different price points. With Buzzoid, you can get:

  • 100 followers for $2.97
  • 500 followers for $6.99
  • 2,500 followers for $29.99
  • 5,000 followers for $39.99

I decided to go for the least expensive/smallest package with 100 followers for $2.97. Then when I was checking out, it gave me the option to add 50 more followers for a reduced price of $1.11, so I thought "YOLO" and just went for it.

Step 3: Wait for followers

After you enter in your account information and your email address and pay for your followers (I was comfortable doing this through my PayPal account), you get to sit back and watch them flood to your profile.

My 150 followers took around 20 minutes or so to follow me. I'll be honest, it was kind of exhilarating watching your number count get higher and higher, but when you go and actually look at the profiles that are following you, that feeling of euphoria gets a little bit sour.

Sure, you're getting a bunch of new followers and it looks like you're blowing up/getting popular online, but it's all superficial. However, if quantity means more to you than quality, you're going to have a big smile on your face every time you get that follower notification.

The aftermath

Around 20 minutes after I was done with bulking up my Instagram followers, I got a notification from my InsTrack app (an app used to monitor followers and engagement on Instagram) that someone had unfollowed me.

20 minutes later, I got another notification that someone had unfollowed me. I checked their profiles and realized they were the followers I had just paid for.

Another 20 minutes, another lost follower. This continued on for a while before I decided to hit up PayPal and see what they could do to remedy the situation: I paid for a product and didn't receive what I was promised, after all.

So… Is buying Instagram followers a scam?

It is, and it isn't.

If you're a business that's looking to grow its brand online and wants a jumpstart on its Insta to seem a bit more legit, then buying Instagram followers is absolutely the way to go.

If you're someone who uses Instagram as a personal account and want to look like you're popular and have a ton of loyal followers, then sure, that's totally cool too.

But the most important thing to remember when buying Instagram followers is do your research and pick the right site to use or you could be seriously wasting your money.

IG Reviews:

At the end of the day, buying followers won't make you famous, and it definitely won't be your one secret to success. However, there have been many cases where buying followers was proven to be directly responsible for sizeable growth to Instagram following. The most important thing to remember when buying followers is to always stick with credible vendors who provide high-quality followers. If you're able to build up a large amount of followers that look real, even if they're not, you'll gain enough social proof to boost your credibility and improve organic growth with real people.

What do you think?

Do you think you'd ever buy Instagram followers? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Cella Lao Rousseau

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau