The Dirty Business of the Influencer World

Over the past week I have been accused more than a few times of having bought followers on Instagram. It’s upsetting but I understand it, which is even more sad, because it’s what this industry has come to. In less than a week, my Instagram following had a dramatic jump from roughly 25,000 followers to now sitting on 280,000. To be completely honest, I’m still in shock and can’t quite process it all. I created templates on Instagram which happened to go viral, being reposted by celebrities and even making the news.

These kind of Q&A templates have been around for a while though – they were already surfacing through Instagram and I cannot take credit for the idea. It wasn’t my idea. It was just my design that went viral. They even hold a lot of similarity to those old Facebook and MySpace questionnaires back in the day. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure Snapchat even had something similar not long ago? It’s always been a social media trend.

Flash forward to today, I log into every social media and there’s talk about me everywhere. Threads on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn all questioning the legitimacy of my account. I mean I’m not sure who would even buy 200,000 followers (?!) but regardless, in the heat of the moment I posted a screenshot of my impressions and story views to prove my legitimacy, only later to find out you can even BUY those now?!

Having worked in social media and marketing, I understand how much brands invest into influencers and those with bought followers are only deceitful, as they hold no real influence. Most eventually get revealed that way. I’m sure at least one of you reading this has bought followers or thought about buying them. Funny story, I even had a friend the other day who is not very into the world of social media/Instagram, talk about this girl she was following on Instagram who had 20,000 followers but only 1,500 likes per photo. Today, with the mess of the algorithm and all that, I’d consider that a pretty good engagement rate. She was convinced the girl bought followers though.

How is this industry ever supposed to survive if Instagram allows tools where influencers can freely (and quite cheaply) purchase followers, likes, views, impressions, and so on? It’s ironic because the people that buy these to get ahead in the industry, but are actually contributing to the decline of it.

I’m not going to further try to prove to everyone that I haven’t bought followers because I know I haven’t, and I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself if I did. How do you even keep up an account with 200,000 fake followers? Do you have to buy bots (which I hate with every part of me) to keep it looking legit? Who has the time/money/energy to even do all this? I just don’t know anymore. It’s ridiculous.

I truly hope Instagram becomes a more transparent platform in the future and the relationship between influencers, PRs, brands and audiences becomes a more honest and open one. There’s already so much shade, secrets and deception in the industry like the fact there are no regulated ad rates, sponsored post rates, fake bot traffic etc and not to mention the bitchiness between some bloggers. I stopped attending events because of it. Because who really wants to go to events to make friends, follow each other, and then have them unfollow you as soon as you leave? or better yet, pretend to be your friend just to get the photo and exposure. Let’s just say in the 5 years I’ve been in this industry I’ve seen A LOT.

There is so much secrecy in the industry, and things no one talks about so my question is: do we REALLY need to create more?

Anyway, I guess I’m writing this not only as a way to get it off my chest, but to open up the conversation here because I wish more bloggers were open & honest.

I really want to hear YOUR thoughts on this all. Did you know it was happening? Are you apart of the industry? Where do you think it’s going in the future?

Also, I couldn’t leave without saying a massive THANK YOU to the majority of you who have been so supportive. I really can’t express how much it means to me and I couldn’t ever thank you guys enough.