Back in late 2021 I helped this new client come up with a strategy and a plan to launch their Instagram account along with their other social media channels. The branding was on point, and we got an efficient system down for creating content that would attract their target audience.

They are in a very niche market segment for a service that had not yet launched, so I advised that growth would be slow and steady on social media

We booked a few follow up Social Media Power Hours that I offer to existing clients, where we could touch base a few months later to see how things were going.

Fast forward to last week when we were catching up for the first time in 2022. I was reviewing their accounts to make some notes ahead of our call when I immediately saw they had committed a major Instagram mistake.

I dug a bit deeper and confirmed my worst fears. They had bought 5,000 followers. (Cue the face palm).

You’ve probably received one of those DM’s from an account offering to get you thousands of followers overnight for next to nothing. It can seem so tempting when you’re starting out to want to have an account that “looks” more established or popular than it really is.

But here’s what really happens when you buy followers on Instagram: 

1. Your Account Gets Filled with Bots 

All of the new followers on their account were fake. How did I know this? I took a quick scroll through the list and saw thousands of random account names + a string of numbers in their user name + no profile picture (or random photo) on most. These accounts come from bot farms specifically for this purpose. They are following thousands of accounts with no posts or content on their own account.


Here is a list of fake accounts on Instagram

Here is a list of fake accounts on Instagram

2. Your Engagement Takes a Nose Dive 

Since these accounts are not real, that means they will never engage with your content.  But what most people don’t realize – is this means that it’s unlikely that ANYONE will ever see or engage with your content.

Let’s say you’re an account who is just starting out and you have 100 followers. If you have a total of 10 likes and comments on a photo – that’s a 10% engagement rate. And the engagement rate is how Instagram ranks how popular (or not) your content is. This is how Instagram decides to show your content to more people – where it can receive even more engagement, helping you to grow.

Now, if you have 5,000 followers and the same 10 engagements – that is a 0.2% engagement rate. (A heck of a lot less.) Meaning that Instagram is going to decide your content is not so popular, and not show it to anyone else.

There was no easy way to break the news to them – their Instagram account was permanently broken. By wanting to achieve a certain look of having more followers overnight, they had effectively turned off the ability for any real followers to ever see their account, and to ever grow.

What do you do next?

The only options at this point are to slowly remove all of the fake accounts, or delete the account permanently and start over from scratch.

Growing slowly on Instagram can be so frustrating at times, and it often feels like it will be “forever” until you reach a certain milestone.

But you don’t need to wait until you have thousands of followers to start making connections and sales.

How many of your followers right now have you ever sent a DM to? If you are saying close to 0 then you have a huge opportunity already waiting for you even if you only have a few hundred followers.

Reach out to a few of your followers today and find out more about them. Why did they follow you? What are they interested in? If you have a freebie – would like they like to receive it? There are connections just waiting to be had – with real live people on your account.

Next time you receive a too good to be true message about gaining thousands of new followers overnight – hit delete and don’t look back!