The answer is simple: if there is money to spend (a surprisingly affordable amount), there are Facebook likes and Instagram followers to be bought. Social media influencers today are the new-age advertising gurus. They promote everything from books and music to clothes and sarees, with brands eager to capitalise on their GenY audience reach.
For someone trying to make an impression in the fashion/ film industry, or earn quick money via social media, fake followers and likes is a popular option. A quick Google search reveals websites and apps (Smrole, Brainpulse, 1StopInsta, Social King, etc.) that offer bronze, silver and gold packages to increase the follower count... Rs 200 for 1,000 followers, Rs 4,000 for 20,000 and so on.
“The advantages are many. They reach out to model coordinators and lifestyle brands asking them for opportunities, get invited to influencer events to sample free goodies, and even use it for movie chances,” says H Keerthi, a Musically star on the platform.
But there are repercussions. To out those with a fake follower bandwagon, an Instagram page titled ‘Diet Influencer’ has popped up, inspired by the ‘Diet Prada’ and ‘Diet Sabya’ pages. Diet Influencer examines user statistics and follower counts on Instagram to determine which profiles are purchasing their fame and manipulating the market.
Says Chennai-based model and influencer Pradaini Surva, “According to me, buying followers is the same as paying someone to compliment you. The problem is many users in this space feel the pressure to live up to their peers and get carried away. They get addicted. Today they buy 10k followers; the next day, 10k more... and it goes on. But the audiences and brands are smart. They check the content posted and can decide for themselves if the popularity is legit. I personally take care to ensure that makeup/ skin care brands that approach me are safe as I have a responsibility to my followers.” There are reports which also claim that purchasing bots to follow you can lead to spam and phishing. S Sudarsan, CEO of digitial privacy firm Copyright Media, says that the risk goes up if users try to manipulate accounts. “The posts won’t have any reach since all the fake followers are robots — they aren’t going to share or promote the posts,” he adds.