Influencer marketing has become a huge part of Instagram’s overall network, so it should not come as any surprise that the platform is cracking down on those users who purchase followers and likes, so as to increase their standing. These users are also seeking to profit by increased standing so they can trumpet their expanded reach and significance to brands which will not know the difference between legitimate followers and purchased ones.
In November of 2018, Instagram launched a new initiative to remove those followers and likes which were obtained from third-party apps. There are also some signs that new and more aggressive steps are being taken by Instagram, in the form of strong warning messages delivered to accounts which are known to have gained followers and/or likes, by purchasing them from third-party apps.
New warning messages
Some back-end code has been recently discovered in Instagram by industry analysts which takes a sterner approach with users known to have purchased followers or likes from third-party apps. One of these messages says that “Using apps to gain followers is not allowed”, and a second one says that you should “Change your password to stop these apps accessing your account”. A third message discovered in Instagram’s back-end code warns users that “You may have shared your username and password with an app offering likes or followers. Using these apps goes against our policy, and continuing to do so may result in your account being further impacted”.
It is not known when these messages will go into effect and be delivered to the appropriate accounts, however it’s obvious that Instagram is now stepping up its efforts to curb the practice of purchasing likes and followers. For most users, this is very good news, because it will return the platform to a more legitimate setting, and will begin to strongly penalize those users who have chosen not to use a level playing field to conduct their operations.
Presenting a unified front
Stopping these shady operators has proven to be a difficult nut to crack, and for every step taken by a platform to limit their activities, the fake sellers of followers and likes come up with new tactics of their own. This has developed into a kind of constant chase, which has made it difficult for Instagram and other platforms to even keep up, much less to get ahead of the game. It does appear however, that the platforms are taking more concerted action and beginning to present a unified front against spammers and sellers of fake followers and likes.
Recently, Facebook initiated legal action against a New Zealand company which provided false followers, likes, and views to companies for a fee. This legal action is just the opening salvo for Facebook’s efforts to bring these shady companies to court, and to enforce their own policy of requiring legitimate likes and followers. In 2019 alone, Facebook has already taken three companies to trial, not only to stop the nefarious activities of those companies, but to serve as a strong warning to others that Facebook will proceed against them.
This is considered to be a fairly strong deterrent, and will at the very least cause many companies to consider whether or not they should continue on with their business activities. As a further enforcement to this general trend, New York’s Attorney General made a ruling in February which declares that it is basically illegal to sell fake followers and likes on the social media. This announcement was made in direct response to the business actions of a company called Devumi, which has since found it necessary to cease its operations and go out of business entirely.
This particular company was the subject of an investigation conducted by the New York Times that linked the company and its services to some high-profile celebrities and digital influencers who had made use of the company’s services by purchasing likes and followers. The fact that the company ceased its operations despite the support of these high-profile individuals, should make it clear that the prevailing wind in this situation is now backing the forces which consider it illegal. This adds considerable weight to the growing trend which seeks to limit or completely eliminate the activities of all those companies which sell likes and followers that are not real.
While there is no doubt that the tide seems to be turning in favor of policing the illegal selling of fake followers and likes, it’s also true that there is still a considerable amount of influence exerted by these companies. For instance, although the court action did cause Devumi to cease its operations entirely, that company had already amassed a small fortune in the neighborhood of $15 million through its sale of fake followers and likes. This alone should be a strong indication of the huge demand there is for such services, because so many individuals and companies are desperate to quickly acquire a number of followers and likes to impress consumers and other businesses.
This is particularly true in the influencer assessment arena, where it’s essential for influencers to show large numbers of followers in order for companies to retain their services as being influential within their niche. This should send a clear message to all those companies and individuals who have been considering the purchase of fake followers and likes in order to boost their standing and to prop up their account figures. If you’ve been considering doing this yourself, you would be well advised to steer clear of purchasing any fake followers or likes, because authorities are beginning to crack down on it, and the movement against it is gaining rapid momentum.
As the world of social media marketing continues to develop and to evolve, particularly in the area of influencer marketing, this issue is quickly coming to a head. Given the fact that influencer marketing play such an important role in the social media these days, it’s essential for all of social media platforms to require that this kind of influence is legitimate and does not come from fake followers.