There’s been a lot of buzz lately around buying Instagram followers. Is it worth it? We asked numerous digital media experts their opinion on Instagram, and the majority said it’s a dangerous game and advise against it.

“Buying Instagram followers rarely, if ever, ends well,” says Gary J. Nix, social media and digital brand strategist. “I understand the temptation, but friends don’t let friends buy followers.”

So why is it a bad idea? Here are a few reasons:

  1. It’s Morally wrong.

This may seem like the most obvious reason, but it’s still important to point out.

“Put simply, to buy followers goes against the entire principle of using social media for marketing. It impedes trust and any semblance of authentic brand engagement, and despite boosting one metric, followers, it’s likely to severely hurt the far more important metrics of engagement.” says Abe Shaw, eCommerce and web development specialist.

Buying Instagram followers may make you look good in the short-term, but it does not make up for the long-term ramifications and damage to your online reputation. Take #InstaPurge2014 for example—a list you definitely don’t want to be on. You don’t want to have 25K followers one day and have it drop to 5K in a matter of hours. You’ll appear awesome – but only temporarily. When fans start noticing spikes, drops, and engagement stats that nowhere near match the followers you have, they’ll start losing trust in your brand. Trust is key to maintaining a healthy relationship, online and offline!

  1. Buying Instagram followers does not increase your web traffic.

Links left in comment threads don’t actually direct you to any sites. Sharing links on Instagram – aside from the bio – is relatively useless.

While you’re aiming to grow your presence, buying Instagram followers isn’t going to help drive traffic to your business, nor will having a large number of followers increase the clicks received through Instagram. Since URLs aren’t hyperlinked, think,“Will buying Instagram followers help us drive traffic to our site?” Invest your budget in resources that will help your brand build great visual content instead, and hashtag appropriately so it reaches the right eyeballs. Instagram is a channel to showcase your brand identity. Invest in great content, and users will follow.

  1. Ultimately, you’ll lose money.

Buying Instagram followers – particularly “targeted followers” – isn’t cheap. Depending on how exaggerated your numbers are, they will drop over time.

Buzzoid fees are as little as $3 per every 100 “quality” followers – but how do they determine what’s quality for your brand? Hypez on the other hand, charges $30 for 2,500 followers. However, keep in mind, thesesites typically offer “bot followers,” aka followers that lack any real engagement. What’s the actual return on your investment if they’re not going to engage with your brand?

Advanced services such as Buy Instagram Followers range from $90 for 1,000 followers to $1,350 for 15,000 followers.

Growing a stronger organic base at the same rate can be tricky, if not impossible. As a result, you will have to continue to buy followers to maintain a steady number. Suddenly, the low prices you’ve paid for what you think is a one-time spend ends up being a reccurring cost. Overall, it’s not worth the investment.

  1. Your brand will be off-putting to your organic followers.

Your organic followers will notice a dramatic increase or decrease in your numbers, and most likely will be turned off as a result. Fixing a damaged reputation is much harder than putting in the time and effort to grow your follower base the right way. Your organic followers are the most loyal users your brand will encounter. You can rely on them to engage, like, comment, and refer your brand to their networks, sotreat them as you would treat your first customers, partners, and vendors. In order to continue building your presence, you need to engage them and do something in return to show you care. Get them involved in ways without de-valuing your brand equity, i.e. constant product giveaways. By nurturing your organic followers, you’re building more followers through traditional word-of-mouth.

We remind the brands and influencers Firebrand Group comes across to think of their reasons for being on Instagram. Why is your brand on it, and what are you hoping to achieve by being present on Instagram? The answer should be to showcase yourself in a unique, distinctive way and to build a strong community through original brand-content, visuals that represent your brand identity, engagement with influencers, and re-sharing of influencer and fan content to further grow your community. If you’re not convinced yet, try managing your Instagram using the best practices we’ve shared and a few weeks later, you might just forget why you even considered buying Instagram followers in the first place!

Have any other questions or thoughts related to Instagram marketing? Tweet us @FirebrandGrp. Or heck, comment on our Instagram feed – we’d love to know you’re the real deal.