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The social media influencer you’re following might be a commander of robots

Our fear of robots taking over the world has already started. They are not roaming the streets yet, but they are living in our internet – our social media platforms. Have you seen one of those social media accounts with a huge following that you have no idea of? They might be leading an army of robots on social media.

The robots that I mention here are those that are automated accounts programmed to behave like a user. These accounts will like and engage with content generated by a specific set of users. An article byNew York Times stated that it is gaining so much popularity that Facebook found 60 million automated accounts on their platforms (Facebook and Instagram).

The actual story summarised

The New York Time’s article, titled “The Follower Factory“, by Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen, celebrities, musician, politicians and athletes purchase social media followers. They purchase followers from companies that sell them. These followers are in fact automated bot accounts.


It also discusses that in the age where 3 billion people are logged into social media platforms, a new form of status marker was established. A status that could even be converted into real-world currency. It can be a determining factor in employment and endorsement deal negotiations. In some cases, employees were pressured to increase their number of followers to keep their job.

More followers, so what?

You may be wondering what’s the big deal with having more followers? According to research, it was found that influencers with a higher following are seemed to be more likeable. It was also reported that 72% of Instagram users made a purchase after seeing a product on the platform. With the influencer marketing industry estimated to be worth $USD6.5 billion and the effectiveness of it in driving conversions, everyone wants a slice of the pie.

With a bigger following you would get these benefits:

  1. Be more likeable
  2. Have more influence over your audience
  3. Get paid or paid more to promote a brand on social media

With such an easy way to establish yourself on social media as an influencer and get paid to post photos, everyone wants to be one.

Chillax, post and make money. Source: Unsplash user geo uc

The price to be seen popular on social media

You may think that it may be expensive to purchase the follower numbers given the benefits that you get. This is definitely not the case. These fake accounts can be bought at $225 for 25,000 followers. That would be about 9 cents for every 10 followers.

Your fame is just a coin toss away. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Avoiding robot commanding influencers

Knowing that most influential figures are using such shady tactics to push their followers and engagement numbers up, it is an issue that is hard to avoid even in Singapore. This will drive up influencer marketing cost while generating watered-down ROI. To ensure that we marketers get the best ROI, a different pricing model and metric for measuring influencer quality should be used.

When negotiating a deal with an influencer, I would suggest to not only use their reach and engagement numbers as the driving factors for the final fee. The final fee should also be performance-based, following the cost per conversion or conversion rate like how SEM could be done. For example, an influencer will be paid $X for each conversion that they made. This would be an additional payment to the influencers on top of a lowered base fee for using their reach.

With such a payment model, it will help businesses and marketers ensure that they are paying for quality reach and engagement. Apart from that, it will also push the influencers in posting quality content to drive conversion and avoid cases where influencers do not do their part after being paid.

Pick a side

As a marketer or business in the booming social media era where fake followers can be bought, it is essential to be aware of the shortcuts available. You can either make use of it or avoid it, you decide.

Would you join the dark side; buying followers and engagement or stay organic? Let me know in the comments below.

Written by: Azrin Hamdan