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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

159 thoughts on “The social media influencer you’re following might be a commander of robots”

  1. Thanks for the informative read! I totally agree with you with regards to the fake followers online now. Given that, this is the age where many of us are highly influenced by social media. As marketer and consumer we should be more aware of social media and not make judgement based on the number of followers we see. Poor ethics and marketing are just a line away. With good ethics in practice business is likely to drive better result too!

  2. Hi! It is a very interesting read!
    Yes, it is true that many people are paying money to buy followers! I feel that it is also the fastest way to gain more followers in a short period of time. I agree with you that more followers can help to be more likeable, have more influence over your audience and get paid to promote a brand on social media. Yes, payment model will also help business ensure that they are paying for quality reach and engagement! I can’t believe that Facebook has over 60 million automated accounts!!

    Hope you can comment on my latest blog post too! Thank you!

  3. Wow, I didn’t realize how affordable buying followers are! I believe a competent social media manager or digital marketing manager would know how to sniff out bought followers – sites like social blade or even a quick look on the influencer’s comments and follower page, a competent manager would be able to tell if the followers are bots or not. However, knowing that not every manager has this very ability or time, I agree that it waters down ROI for any brand seeking to endorse influencers.

    Personally, the idea of buying followers is very tempting. But because I believe that it is unethical and essentially pointless to my personal growth, therefore, I would not buy into the idea of purchasing fake followers just to have a temporary surge of ego boost.

  4. I support fake following 😉 if it works, why not right?

    Majority of the people now don’t have the time to sit down and identify if the likes / followers are real.

    Taking advantage of the current situation is a great way to reach your intended reach.

    1. Yeah, it definitely works, an easy low-cost solution with loads of benefits. You have a good point about how the average person doesn’t really much care about it. However, I have a personal belief that playing dirty will always bite you back somewhere down the road when you don’t see it coming.

  5. Interesting article. It would be really tempting to take the easy route and purchase followers because really, the cost of buying followers is pretty insignificant if you are operating a full-fledged business. However, organization have to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it is worth the risk if they happen to be exposed down the future.

    Purchasing followers might provide the business with a short-term benefit, probably an increase in sales for a few months. Is that increase in sales worth the risk of losing customer’s trust if they are exposed? Personally, I don’t think so. What about you?

  6. Hey Azrin! Interesting post you got there. I personally feel that staying organic is the way to go in long run. Even though buying followers – having a solid base of followers, will serve as a social proof of the business, the business would not have achieve the targeted goals of reaching to their audience effectively. Furthermore, in today’s digital age, it is so easy to check whether a business have been buying followers or not just by using social blade or just looking at the followers to likes and comments ratio. Buying followers to have a huge following base might attract people but once they dig deeper, the facade will fall through.

    What are your opinion on this view? Tell me more!

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