Thursday evening I opened up my feed reader to browse the world wide web looking for the latest updates from the various blogs and websites I subscribe to. It’s always good to catch up on what’s happening in the industry. 

Once I read the blogs and websites I know and trust, I have a folder of feeds that are essentially Google Alerts for certain topics I want to keep a finger on the pulse of so I can see the information about that topic from sites I may not know or subscribe to. One of the topics in that folder is influencer marketing.

So there I am, scrolling through the headlines looking for an interesting article to read and I see one that catches my eye. It reads, “Why top influencers are buying Instagram followers.” It was from a site called and written by a person named Kristel Staci.

I thought to myself, “Well I sure do want to know the reasons.” Buying followers, after all, is one of the most pronounced black eyes on our industry. That fraudulent practice alone is amplified enough that it discourages many brands from investing in influence marketing at all.

So I start to read. And I get uncomfortable. And then I see that the entire article is not telling me why top influencers buy Instagram followers. It’s recommending the practice to others. 

I’ll rant my way through the near stroke I had reading the article in today’s commentary. 

Today’s episode is presented by TrendHERO. It’s a new but advanced influencer marketing software platform specific to Instagram. So, for those of you who focus all your influencer energies on that platform, TrendHERO can help you search and discover Instagrammers based on a wide range of filters, from nano influencers, all the way to celebrities. There are over 90 million profiles in their database. 

The feature I like most about TrendHERO is a big fat yellow highlighter to the topic of today’s commentary. It has advanced fake followers check. So you can detect if an influencer followed the advice in the article I’m about to rip apart in today’s episode. 

TrendHERO also has an algorithm that tells you the chances a given posts’s comments are real or fake. So if you’re in a vertical that might be susceptible to comment pods and fake followers … a vertical that might consider this article I’m about to talk about as reliable information, TrendHERO can help you suss out which Instagrammers are worth it and which aren’t.

TrendHERO also has a nice database of sponsored posts so you can quickly see how an Instagrammers content performs when they have to disclose a paid relationship. Or you can use two clicks to search for similar influencers and identify good targets quickly.

The great thing about TrendHERO is they’re giving you a 14-day free trial just for listening to Winfluence! And if you decide you want to use the platform after that, the lite plan is just $15.99 per month. 

Sign up for that free trial now at

For the full transcript of today’s rant, scroll down.

Other Influencer Marketing Podcasts of note …

Winfluence - Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand

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Full Commentary

So there I am, trying to find out why top influencers are buying Instagram followers. I’m hoping there’s a seed of a reason in there I can perhaps understand and relate to … that might even allow me to be more forgiving of people who buy Instagram followers. 

I’m a social media purist, so when you skirt the lines close to unethical or immoral use of these platforms, I get a little testy. I know to each his own and as long as you’re not breaking any laws, you’re free to do what you want to do. But still … violating the respect and trust of the community, your audience, your sponsors or even yourself, is just not something I can swallow easily.

And I’m reading and I’m reading … now I’ll quote some of this article for you.

“It takes months or years to build social proof until you reach sufficient numbers. Because of this, you need to buy Instagram likes and followers.”

If I had a heart condition, this would be the point where I reach for the nytroglycerine. 

Instead, I stared at the sentence for a good minute. I didn’t even blink. 

What in the name of Doc Searls is happening here? 

I read it again:

“It takes months or years to build social proof until you reach sufficient numbers. Because of this, you need to buy Instagram likes and followers.”

The next sentence got worse.

Quote … “There are other reasons to consider buying Instagram engagement besides gaining more of them soon.”

This person … Kristel Staci … is recommending on a seemingly credible website … for people to buy Instagram followers. AND to buy Instagram engagement.

Does she not know that when people make this kind of recommendation, Satan chops the horn off a unicorn and stabs a kitten through the heart while kicking a baby?

The article goes on to list the reasons why influencers buy Instagram followers. Allow me list them before I lose my temper ….

First, Quote “Dives traffic to other social media accounts.”

Next, Quote “Promotes brand development.”

Third, Quote “Obtain revenue.”

Fourth, Quote “Increase your following.”

Number Five, Quote “Build a cross-platform following.”

I’ll return to this list in a moment.

The article goes on to say a few more things that made me shake with anger. 

Quote “Buying followers and likes from reputed and professional companies can help one to get genuine likes and get the desired result.”

Finally, and as if she knew someone would find her article offensive, there was this logic-depraved warning:

Quote “It should be noted, however, that this won’t guarantee immediate success on Instagram. Getting followers and likes remains a priority. Posting quality content is crucial for proving that you have the followers you claim. 

New paragraph. Quote “When you do this, your profile will be legitimate and you will avoid naysayer’s concerns.”


Without calling out the specifics of this article, let me just say this to anyone who might have been nodding along with this article’s assault on good taste:

If you purchase Instagram followers … from ANY company or service … you are committing fraud. No, the legal system doesn’t define it that way yet, but allow me to explain why I do.

The appearance of a high follower count leads people to believe you create great content that people are interested in. If a percentage of those followers are not people, but fake accounts set up by companies that sell Instagram followers, then you are misleading people as to how interesting  your content is. 

Furthermore, if you misrepresent how many real people follow you and brands single you out as someone they wish to invest in as an influencer, any compensation you obtain from them is done fraudulently. They would not be interested in that investment if they knew the follower count or engagement rate you represent as real is actually not.

I’m positive that one day, the court system will entertain a case where a brand invested money into an influencer who they later discovered had purchased followers and engagement. They will pursue legal action to recover the money invested in said influencer. It’s not a stretch to say that the facts of how that influencer acquired the brand’s money prove that it was done dishonestly. Since that dishonesty was intentional and even purposeful in misleading the brand, then it is, by definition, fraudulent.

Now … I am being very careful here to keep my comments focused on what was written in this article on this website. I do not know anything about Kristel Staci. I did email her and told her I was preparing this criticism of her article and recommendations. 

As of the time of this recording, she has not responded. If she does, I’ll record a special follow-up to air her side of the story.

But I know nothing about her other than the bio the website provided and what little background I could glean from her personal website which that bio pointed to. It is not my intent to attack her on a personal level. I have chosen my words carefully. If you think I cross the line, please let me know.  

I also am not attacking, though they deserve some responsibility and accountability for publishing such advice. From what I can tell, is a typical tech industry blog that churns out lots of content aimed at driving page views and search engine credibility. It has a very high domain authority according to and has been around since 2016. It’s a product of Rich Media Limited, a company based in the United Kingdom.

Sadly, they previously published an article from the same author listing companies you could buy Instagram followers from. Oy vey.

But let’s get back to what this article says …

The reasons why influencers buy Instagram followers. 

First, Quote “Dives traffic to other social media accounts.”

This is a stretch at best. When you buy social media followers, you are not buying followership from real people. You are buying it from bots. Those bots are programmed to follow your account on Instagram, not other social media accounts. 

If your new fraudulent follower count entices new real people to follow you, they’re only going to be encouraged to follow your other accounts if they like your content. And if your content is that good, you don’t need to buy followers.

While the article is right in saying that it does take time to build your following. The only people who take shortcuts are frauds.

The next reason … Quote “Promotes brand development.”

This tip contained a dandy of a line. Quote “By purchasing likes and views from legitimate sources, small businesses can gain recognition.”

I’ll say this plain and clear. If a source sells you likes or views … they are NOT LEGITIMATE. They are encouraging fraud. They are taking your money and setting you up to be outed, embarrassed and have any trust or authority you’ve achieved set on fire.

It goes on to say that increasing brand visibility will increase reputation and influence. It may for a time, but eventually, it will erase your reputation and destroy your influence. Because it’s fraudulent. 

The third reason influencers buy Instagram followers … Quote “Obtain revenue.” Yeah. Unethically. Fraudulently. This article may as well say, “Another fun way to increase your revenue is to knock off a liquor store.”

Here’s a dandy one … the Fourth reason? Quote “Increase your following.”

The reason I should buy followers is to increase my following? What type of Schrödinger’s cat horse shit is that?

Number Five, Quote “Build a cross-platform following.”

Which is another way of saying “Drive traffic to other social media accounts” which was reason number one. 

Now I’m starting to think this is some off-shoot of the Onion and this article is just trying to mess with my head. 

The truth of the matter is that yes, there are influencers out there who purchase followers and engagement, from companies that sell that as a service. Find a single company that does this by sourcing the followers and engagement from real human beings who follow and engage genuinely with the influencer’s account and I will congratulate you for finding the first of its kind.

These companies program computer bot accounts to do the following and the engaging. That means, by definition, the followers and engagement are not real people and therefore not legitimate. They are fake. 

When the total number of fake followers and engagement reaches a point that changes the perception of trust in the influencer, then that account is fraudulently misleading those with the perception. That means the victims of the fraud can include potential new followers, partners, and sponsors.

This is not really a matter of opinion. This is a statement of definition of terms. 

I won’t comment on the author’s credibility of the subject matter. I won’t comment on the legitimacy of the media outlet in question. But by taking the stand that fraudulent behavior is okay, their credibility and legitimacy precede themselves.

Am I wrong? Am I overreacting? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send an email or record a voice memo with the details and email it to jason (at) I may use your reaction … especially any criticisms of me … on a future episode.  

Have a different question or topic related to influence or influence marketing you’d like my take on? Inspire an episode by emailing me at that same address – jason (at) I may use your question as a show topic. If I do, I’ll send you a signed copy of Winfluence the book as a thank you!

Note: Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

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