This blog post is probably rather contentious, but I’ve been so angered over the past week that I needed to write down my thoughts somewhere.
Last year, Unilever (note: one of the biggest ‘consumer goods’ companies worldwide, and also one of the largest media buyers in the world) announced they were working to ‘improve the integrity, transparency of influencer marketing’ by, amongst other things, promising to never work with influencers who buy followers.
I applauded this whilst reading it at my desk – it’s great news finally for us honest bloggers. Brands are starting to realise that, just because someone has hundreds of thousands of followers, does not mean they are all reliable, have integrity or have a genuine history of real engagement with their audience.
At the same time, I continue to see a lot of ‘influencers’ who have BOUGHT followers in the past still working on high budget campaigns with brands who seemingly don’t care. It’s almost as if they don’t mind throwing their money down the drain! This whole thing has really ruffled my feathers, because I simply do not understand how influencers who have bought followers have not been already outed and publicly blacklisted? How are they ‘influencers’? Surely they are just exploiting everyone – brands and followers alike!
I started this blog almost nine years ago now, and have worked tirelessly on growing my YouTube, Instagram, blog & Twitter feeds (full time for the past three years). However, I still only have 64k Instagram followers. You’d expect someone who’s been at it as long as I have to have a lot more, right?
It’s SO difficult to grow online at the moment. There are incredible, talented people starting channels and accounts every day and the competition is extremely high. But not once have I resorted to, or even considered, buying followers to give myself a boost. I’m so sad to say that I know of Instagrammers who have done this and who are now sitting comfortably with 400k followers – with new followers and brands absolutely oblivious to, it has to be said, what amounts to blatant fraud.
Not only is this dishonest and fake, but it also makes it so much harder to judge what a normal amount of followers is! And it makes me, who is so passionate about the business and in love with my job, feel utterly disheartened and demotivated as I work so hard to build whilst others can buy likes with no effort at the click of a button … with absolutely no negative consequences.
Okay, so maybe we can’t out these people (for fear of being seen to be merely bitchy, jealous or mean), but I do wish companies would look past follower numbers and instead focus on engagement and sale conversion. I might not have 100k Instagram followers, but I have a real and honest relationship with my audience, who I am genuinely thankful for the support of, who trust my recommendations … and I can sleep happy knowing I’m not faking anything.
What do you think about bloggers buying followers?
Would your judgement of them change if you knew who they were?
Photographs by Adorngirl (Instagram here)