After many weeks, I recently, specifically, visited an acquaintance’s profile on Instagram and was taken aback to see that they had 50,000 followers. I looked at their updates to see what had changed for them to have suddenly gotten such a large following and was unable to spot any differences. The photos were of the same things – them at a party, selfie with friends, a pout here, a photo with the parents, more pouting, a new fashion accessory, etc. All photos a dull yellow, low on contrast and consistently of nothing new.
Man. I’ve been slogging my ass off doing this thing and that, spending time curating my feed, photographing, editing, sharing etc and I’ve only got 35,000 followers. How does this person suddenly go from 12,000 to 50,000 in a matter of weeks?! I was jealous. Very. But I wondered if they’d simply just made a purchase.
Some weeks prior to the above, I was approached by someone on Instagram, via a private message, saying that they could help me gain a large number of followers within a few weeks for a fee. 200 GBP for 25,000 new followers and there were other “packages” as well. The more money I spent, the more followers I would get. I was told that all these followers would be legitimate Instagram account holders. That some of my photos would end up featured on the Instagram “Explore” page, which would guarantee genuine followers only.
They didn’t clarify how they would get my profile onto the Instagram official Explore page though and they seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get me to pay. “Prices increase 100% coming Friday” is what ticked me off and I decided not to do this. Screenshots of the exchange – without disclosing their identity – because who knows, it’s probably money for their college loans and I want to be the last person to affect that. And, they might have been making a legitimate offer. As legitimate as it could get anyway.
Resist The Urge
But, I’ve been there. Standing at the edge. Looking at this as an option. Because it feels like I’ve been doing the work forever and haven’t reached this point that I’d liked to have reached. If you asked me to define “this point”, I would not be able to. It has been frustrating and hard to get to even this level. I enjoy what I do and would continue to do it but some “rewards” would also be nice. Although, I know enough hard-working entrepreneurs who look at my numbers in envy too.
So far, I’ve resisted it. But I wonder, even if I did “buy followers” and disclosed it, how would it make a difference? A few of you might read the disclosure but most won’t. And most of us ARE impressed by a following larger than our own. We scratch our heads when we see someone with hundreds of thousands of followers but they have only ever made a hundred or two hundred updates and even those aren’t much to look at. But we do think that they’re probably “cool” and we might even follow them ourselves.
I’ve thought about this long and hard and I have more questions than answers. What do more numbers ultimately mean? Does it mean that the products being showcased in these updates are being sold more than the products that have, for example, never ever been showcased on Instagram? I doubt it. There’s an on-ground, brick and mortar retail business that is a whole lot stronger than online retail in India. Most of India’s population lives in B and C tier cities and the only use they have for the internet is YouTube videos. If they did follow popular YouTube influencers, I doubt they’d actually be able to purchase the products being showcased in those videos.
There’s many layers to profit and sales. It isn’t as simple as having a large number of followers.
I know more than a few small, boutique brands that sell like hot cakes via their Facebook Pages and Whatsapp Groups and even via Instagram. They have maybe 2000 to 3000 followers only – but those are enough to help them sustain their business and turn a profit.
For middle-people like me – influencers – it’s a different ball game. Clients who actually have physical products to sell, probably “feel” more comfortable spending money on someone with 100,000 followers than with someone who has 35,000 followers. It’s like “comfort food”. And I know of many who are “once bitten twice shy”. The market, especially in India, is large enough to accommodate everybody : influencers who buy followers and have more than 100k followers ; and influencers who grow their following organically and have 35k followers ; and influencers that have Bollywood news and have organically grown a 200k following as well.
It is best to have a goal. As an influencer and as a brand. What are you ultimately aiming for? Working with influencers isn’t simply about something as mundane but crucial as “sales”. It is about building a brand and creating a voice for that brand and establishing enough influence to generate aspirational value and THEN sales.
What I’ve learned from all this is that it never really ends. This, wanting more. Forever and ever.
If there is a demand for it, there will be supply for it. If you need more followers, someone will give them to you. For a price. Building an audience, organically, takes way more time and effort and some of us just do not have the time and patience for it.