Guys, I’m paranoid. Even more so than usual, I mean,
Specifically, I’m paranoid that someone out there hates me – so much, in fact, that they’re, um, buying me Instagram followers in an attempt to ruin my life. Which, OK, sounds even MORE weird now that I see it written down than it did in my own head.
Let me rewind a bit…
So, one night last week, I went to bed, and I had 16,300 Instagram followers (Not in the bed WITH me, obviously: because this post might be weird, but it’s not THAT kind of weird…) – or thereabouts, anyway. I have no idea what the exact number was (or, indeed, IS…) because, the fact is, that number never, ever changes. I’ve had 16.3K Instagram followers for at least a year now: every day I gain a handful of new followers, but lose a handful of old ones, and this pattern repeats day after day, month after month, year after year. In fact, I fully expect to have 16.3K Instagram followers until the day I die (Or Instagram does), seriously,
Which is why, when I went to bed the next night, and a quick check of my phone revealed that I now had 17,400 Instagram followers… well, I was just a little bit surprised, to put it mildly.
Somehow, in the course of that day, I had managed to gain 1,400 new followers: and what’s more, I had done this without even posting any new content on Instagram, or otherwise using the platform.
I was not even remotely elated about this surprising new development. No, I accepted a long time ago that I’m never going to be popular on Instagram (Er, this seems like as good a time as any to invite you all to follow me over there anyway, though. Want to?), so I immediately suspected some kind of mischief was afoot. I was right to suspect that, too, because a quick glance at the list of my newest followers confirmed that every single one of them was FAKE.
How did I know? Allow me to demonstrate:
This is a screenshot of one of the accounts that started following me. Now, they weren’t all quite so blatant as to actually use the words “fake account” in their user names and/or bios, but they did all seem to have a few things in common, namely:
- Private account
- No profile photo
- No posts
- No/very few followers
- But following a large number of people themselves
Oh, and most of the ones who HAD filled out some profile information seemed to be young Russian or Middle Eastern men. Now, I’m not suggesting that all young men of that description are spammers, obviously, but, well, they’re not exactly the usual demographic for a middle-aged parenting/lifestyle blogger, so it seemed just a LITTLE bit unlikely that hundreds of them would all discover my account and start following it simultaneously. So, yes, something was very obviously UP.
But what WAS it?
Well, I had a bit of a think, and managed to identify a few occasions in the past when I’d suddenly had a big spike in followers, all of which had been caused by either:
a) My account being featured by another, much larger, account: which didn’t seem to be the case here, because, when that does happen, the featuring account will generally tag you, so you know what’s happened.
b) That one time a company selling fake ‘likes’ gave me a “free trial” of their service, to encourage me to pay for more. (I DIDN’T.) Something like that seemed like the most likely scenario to me, but, then again, when that happened before, the company in question messaged me to let me know what they’d done (Otherwise what would be the point, right?), and that wasn’t the case here.
So, it was a mystery: and it was a mystery that had left me with over 1,000 fake Instagram followers clogging up my account.
Why is this such a bad thing?
It’s a fair question, really. I mean, I’m sure a lot of people will be reading this, while privately thinking, “What’s the big deal, drama queen? You got 1,000+ new followers, and, OK, they might not be REAL, but it’s not like anyone’s going to know, and it’s not like you paid for them yourself, so, I dunno, maybe chill a bit?”
Here’s the thing, though:
a) It’ll hurt my engagement. Because I now have 1000 extra people following my account, but not actually interacting with it in any way: and that’s not good.
b) People DO notice. Brands, particularly, but also other Instagram users, who use sites like Social Blade to look at Influencer activity, and work out whether or not they’re doing something dodgy. My Social Blade activity for this month 100% makes it look like I’m doing something dodgy: because it shows me gaining and losing a handful of followers every day…. and then suddenly gaining 1,161 overnight. Which (With a few exceptions) is generally a sign of someone buying followers. Brands, of course, don’t want to work with someone whose followers are fake: it makes me look dishonest as hell, and, for someone who makes a living from collaborating with brands, that’s really not good either, is it?
From this, then, it was pretty obvious to me that I was going to have to somehow remove the fake followers – all 1,161 of them – from my account. First, though, I did what any self-respecting Instagrammer would do: I posted on Stories, asking if anyone had a clue what the hell was going on.
The answers were pretty eye-opening.
First up, a couple of people suggested it could be a a company trying to persuade me to use their follower-buying service (Which seems even less likely to me now that a couple of weeks have passed without anyone contacting me to claim responsibility.). Someone else wondered if it could just be a rogue spambot, which had randomly given me some follows. (Apparently when people buy fake followers, the accounts that follow them will also follow some other Instagram accounts at the same time, to make themselves look more legit.) The majority of people who responded, though, had another suggestion for me:
Because, yes, apparently that’s a thing, and it’s when someone buys an influencer fake followers for the express purpose of making them look bad to brand reps, PRs, and anyone else who decides to check them out on Instagram. Apparently some influencers will buy fake followers for people they see as “competitors”, in a bid to damage their reputation and engagement, and make sure they miss out on campaigns.
I mean, I’m obviously pretty naive here, but I had NO IDEA this kind of thing went on. It’s just so Machiavellian, and, well, a bit rubbish, really, isn’t it? Like, it’s not that I want to teach anyone how to troll me, obviously, but COME ON, people, you can do better than that, surely?
All the same, enough people have mentioned this to me now for me to have accepted that, bizarre though it may sound, yes, ‘hate-buying’, as I’ve dubbed it, really is A Thing. Is it a Thing that’s happened to ME, though?
Honestly? No idea. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, obviously, and that I can be pretty annoying, really, so I’m sure there’s no shortage of people who don’t like me. There’s only one person I can think of, though, who might actually wish me (or my career, in this case) harm, and, well, he’s currently in jail, so probably NOT busy buying me fake Instagram followers, all things considered.
Conclusion? Um, there IS no conclusion, actually: aaand, it’s just this second occurred to me that you’ve probably only made it this far through this post because you were expecting some big, dramatic reveal at the end, so, whoops! My bad! Hey, maybe YOU will be the next person who hates me enough to … buy me some Instagram followers? OR maybe you’re a normal person, who’s as weirded-out by that idea as I am? Let’s hope so.
In any case, I’m probably never going to know how it was that I came to acquire over 1000 fake Instagram followers in the space of one, short, Tuesday afternoon. And I’m probably not going to waste any more time thinking about it, either. In the interests of transparency, though – and just in case anyone HAS been looking at my Instagram stats and assuming I’m a cheaty cheater who cheats – I just wanted to put it out there that, yes, my Social Blade activity currently looks dodgy as all hell, but I’m afraid I’m just not interesting enough to actually BE that dodgy, so, nothing to see here, folks.
Oh, and if it WAS one of my mortal enemies who did this, and if that person happens to be reading this while, I dunno, stroking a white cat and giving an evil chuckle every now and then, I just wanted to clarify that the fake Instagram followers were mildly annoying, sure, but if you REALLY want to annoy me, I would be totally devastated if you were to buy me shoes next time, instead. These ones. say. Size 4. They would totally ruin my life, so, you know, under no circumstances do that, OK?