While scrolling through Instagram I will often come across someone’s profile which has thousands of followers, or a clothing company I have never heard of but seems to have a large following. Their large following always makes me wonder if their account or website is credible.
Instagram has become a huge platform not only for social networking but also for marketing and advertising through users called “Influencers.” Some people can generate a large following naturally by posting high-quality content, sticking to their own aesthetic, and living an appealing lifestyle.
But this is not the case for everyone. A large number of users and companies can purchase followers, likes and even comments through various apps. So how do I tell the difference between a user or company that is reliable and one that purchases their followers? I’ve come to learn a few techniques from previous social media internships.
Accounts that have a very large following but very few “likes” on photos is typically a giveaway. If the user or company has only a hundred likes when they have upwards of 20,000 followers, it’s likely they bought followers. I can also tell an account has purchased likes when they have thousands of likes and very few followers–the ratio is disproportionate.
While it is possible that these could just be the numbers of followers or likes these accounts get, I will usually check other photos to see if the numbers are similar. Another trick is looking at who has “liked” the photo or the accounts who follow them. If there are a significant number of obvious spam/bot accounts, I will assume they bought likes. Spam/bot accounts are very easy to spot because the usernames will often include words such as “followers,” “likes,” or even “buy.”
When looking at accounts or websites, I will also look at the photo quality of the content they are posting. Accounts or websites are presumably reliable when the photos are high-resolution, of good quality, contribute to the brand or person’s aesthetic and are relevant to what they typically post about.
If they post low-resolution photos, I will typically distrust them. As a social media user, I am more attracted to accounts that post high-quality content that sticks to their aesthetic. If they do post high-quality content, it is also a good idea to see if that content is something they created and promotes their brand, rather than a random photo they found.
Last example: I will look at a clothing brand’s tagged photos to see if people who have purchased from them have tagged them in their photos. I do this to see if the clothing is of good quality, true to the picture. This is a way to feel more comfortable purchasing something from their account. If they don’t have many people who tag their content, that will usually guide me away from their account.
Natalie Mooney is a junior majoring in media communication at PLNU.