How bloggers fake popularity

(and how you can do it too – although you might not want to)

Are those influencers as influential as they seem?

Once you’ve been around the online publishing world for a while, you’ll realise that not everything is as it seems.

Brands want to work with popular bloggers, and bloggers want to work to pay their bills, so there’s bound to be a bit of fiddling behind the scenes.

If you’re just starting out, or have been plugging away at your blog for a while with little success, you might be wondering what everyone else is doing that you’re not. Well, here goes: you might already be doing some of these yourself, in which case, I’d love to hear your take on it.

Boosting popularity.

There are a couple of ways that bloggers give themselves the appearance of being popular:

  1. Buying followers
  2. Followbaiting
  3. Facebook reciprocation groups
  4. Instagram pods

1 – Buying followers.

Buying followers is the bottom of the barrel approach to boosting stats.

In my opinion, it’s dishonest. Why does anyone do it? Well, if you want to make a living from your blog, you’ll find that brands will have a set of requirements for the bloggers that they want to work with. They’ll have a minimum number of social media followers as well as a minimum DA (domain authority) requirement, but they don’t have a metric for measuring genuine quality of engagement.

That’s why many bloggers are tempted to buy fake followers on Instagram and Twitter, and fake likes on Facebook, in order to look more attractive to brands.

Is buying followers actually cheating?

Of course buying followers is cheating!

Interestingly though, when you do this you often end up cheating yourself – your fake followers won’t actually engage with your material, and this can actually damage your reach on some social media platforms.

Imagine if you keep putting posts out to 100 followers, but only get 1 person responding. Sucks, right? Now imagine that you keep putting posts out to 10,000 followers but still, only one person responds. Do you feel better, or worse?

If Facebook decides that 0.01% of people think your content is good, they probably won’t be pushing it out to more eyes. Backfired.

2 – Buying engagement.

Well, buying engagement is just about the same as buying followers, but it might not be as easy to spot.

On Fiverr, you can buy Instagram commentsblog commentsretweets… I won’t bother carrying on, as you’ve got the picture.

I’ve never done this myself, as I can’t imagine that the return on investment would be good for me. Actually, more importantly, I wouldn’t want to wade through the fake engagement to get to the real stuff from my real followers, which I want to respond to. You know, to actually engage with.

3 – Followbaiting, or follow-unfollow

If you’ve been on Twitter or Instagram for any time at all, you’ve seen it: someone with 25,000 followers chooses to follow little old you, with your 50 followers made up mostly of your mates and your mum, who you forced to join Instagram for the follow and has no idea how to actually use it.

Wow, you think, they like my stuff! You follow them back, happy to make the connection.

Then in a day, they’ve unfollowed you – but you probably don’t know this, because there’s no notification for when someone unfollows. They then repeat, stealthily picking up reciprocating followers and dropping them.

Now, this shiftiness is going on all the time, but don’t go around accusing people of doing this just because they have a few more followers than they are following. Be cool. There’s a middle ground to find.

You can’t possibly be expected to follow everyone on every social media platform forever, but you can decide not to be a jerk. Don’t follow-unfollow. Use an app – there are lots of options out there – to keep an eye on the folks who do this, and just drop them like a hot rock when they do it to you.

4 – Facebook reciprocation groups

There must be thousands of Facebook blogger support groups, all providing some way or other to boost your blog stats.

The most regimented (and useful) ones are strictly for providing reciprocal services for your blog. For example, you’ll have threads dedicated to:

  • Retweeting
  • Instagram likes
  • Instagram comments
  • Facebook page likes
  • Stumbleupon
  • Pinterest
  • Blog visits
  • Blog comments
  • Blog link clicking
  • Google +
  • YouTube likes

Plus, every variation you can think of.

Wondering how come that other blogger has had so many shares for that boring post? Now you know. How did they get so many comments for it? Read them and see if they appear half-hearted or forced, or if they’re coming from the same group of bloggers each time. Now you know.

You could spend a lifetime working away at reciprocal threads, but are they worth it? Yes and no – you may not find a loyal group of fans in the people who are taking part in these threads, but you will probably boost your stats. You’ll still need to find real readers who aren’t in it for what they can get out of it as well.

I won’t condemn these groups as I was a member of several when first starting out (although I don’t participate any more), but it pays to point out that this blogging thing is a business, and you can’t judge a book by its cover.

5 – Instagram Pods

Instagram pods exist to provide guaranteed likes and comments for pod members.

If you join a pod, you’re expected to like and comment within a certain time frame of a member’s post going live, in order to provide the most benefit and boost their post.

This works in the same way as some of the Facebook group threads, but notifications are sent through messages in the Instagram app. There’s some discussion over whether Instagram is about to pull the plug on pods, and start penalising influencers who use this tactic.

I dabbled in pods before but they really weren’t for me. I found the Facebook reciprocation groups hard as you’re expected to share posts you really might not like; it’s even harder for Instagram pictures that you’re expected to like and comment on, but that you secretly hate.

Still, join the Instagram Mafia if you like… you can always leave!

Sounds like hard work, right?

That’s because it is. There are plenty of good reasons not to start a blog and get yourself into all this madness. Still, you’re here because you’re already in it, right?

If you’re just about to start and are still weighing up your options, check out this post on how to name your blog without sounding like a fool.

​Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my observations. Am I too harsh? Give me an earful!