It seems we’ve all heard of someone who has bought likes or followers. Even if you haven’t bought likes or followers for your own accounts, you have probably seen people advertising these services. It’s not exactly an uncommon practice—in today’s world where digital kudos are directly tied to popularity, everyone wants to appear likeable and worthy of attention. And a social media page that appears to be lively and interactive is a great way to draw attention to your products and services, right?
Selling followers used to be considered an annoying—if not unscrupulous—way of doing business, but it turns out that it is actually illegal.
Yes, you read that right: Illegal. And the Federal Trade Commission has started taking action against some of the worst offenders.
Earlier this week, the FTC fined German Calas, Jr., a businessman who has been using his company, Devumi, to sell likes and followers to celebrities and “influencers.” Devumi had access to a stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts and generated around $15 million in revenue from its operations. The company is now shut down as a result of the fines and bad press, but this isn’t the only time they’ve come under fire: In January 2019, they were fined heavily in an attempt to curb the bad behavior.
The FTC also issued an official warning to a woman named Sunday Riley, who had written her own fake reviews of her products and then subsequently ordered her employees to write additional falsified reviews. She did not have to pay a fine or shut down her company, which seems like a pretty lax “punishment,” but if she continues to engage in this type of behavior, there may be more severe consequences later on.
When these practices are scrutinized, it’s plain to see that they are actually cases of fraud. The companies engage in behavior designed to fool customers. Even by the loosest definitions of the word, the practices are considered, well, scammy. It is a positive sign that these practices could be shut down in the near future—at least, in the United States. It is difficult to tell how these actions could be implemented (if at all) in other countries.
It’s best not to falsify any information when it comes to your business, whether that’s your business values, your number of employees, or how many fans and followers you have. Honesty is always the best policy. If you feel a little embarrassed of your low number of social media followers, that’s okay—it’s normal, especially for local businesses, to have a small social media presence.
It’s possible to grow your following, but it’s always best to do it in an honest way—would you rather have 10,000 purchased followers but no actual customers to buy your products, or 1,000 true fans of your company who are likely to interact, share, and promote your fantastic business?
The answer should be clear.