This question came up in the online session I did on Tuesday night (watch the replay here!) and since some people prefer to read, here’s the answer.
The general opinion of social media professionals is that buying followers is wrong. It’s not authentic. It’s not organic. On one level, I totally agree with that. But in 2014, it can be challenging to attract attention, especially initially. There’s a lot of time and effort involved, and as a society, we’re impatient. We want it now. The number of followers you have can really be an attention grabber – someone who sees how many people are following you may assume that you are providing value to many people, and therefore they should follow you also so as to not miss out. Buying followers does add credibility in that regard.
Confession: I’ve bought some followers. Not a lot, but I wanted to find out what the experience was like.
However, those followers who you’ve bought are not actually engaging with you, and you can’t engage with them. So if you post some content, and no one likes it or re-shares, it doesn’t matter if you’ve bought a million followers or you only have 2.
What if you buy a large amount of followers, and then decide that you don’t want to have them anymore, and want to remove them? The removal process is not going to be easy. You’re going to have to remove them individually. I’m willing to bet that won’t be an enjoyable experience.
So my overall recommendation is: buy a small amount of followers if you really want to. Try it, and see if it has an effect on your overall growth. Your number of likes and re-shares won’t change, especially initially. You won’t reach the “Popular” page all of a sudden. You’ll still need to be creating great content. But people may be convinced to follow you because of the number of followers you have.
In the end, however, the most important thing to do is produce amazing content that people find valuable, use hashtags to help other people find the great work you’re doing, and engage with people on a very personal level so they feel you actually care about them.