Why paying for fans is like shooting yourself in the foot.

by Tanner Christensen June 16th, 2011 

shooting

When I first started working in SEO and online marketing I was downright amazed at the fact that you could pay for almost anything.

Want a couple hundreds links to your website? Get out your credit card. Looking to boost the number of people following you on Twitter? Log in to PayPal. Facebook fans? No problem. Stumbles? You can pay StumbleUpon for them. No matter what number you're looking to build, there's a way you can effortlessly pay to make it climb.

Apart from being fairly expensive, paying to fudge your marketing numbers can really hurt you in the long run though. Or maybe it's too early in this article to make such a bold assumption. Let's take a quick look.

pay-for-it

If you pay for more followers or fans on social media websites then you are guaranteed higher numbers for quite some time (even after you've stopped paying). As an example: if you pay $100 for 500 followers on Twitter, you're likely to get even more people following you as a result. The more people following you, the more likely you are to appear important or entertaining, and the more likely people will be to follow you. The same goes for Facebook fans.

If you pay for visitors to your website, as another example, you're guaranteed a high level of traffic. The results don't lie. $100 can get you a couple thousand visitors today without a doubt.

Now here's where the problems start to build up.

economy-cemetery

If you've paid for Twitter followers, what's the guarantee that those followers will actually give a damn about what you're tweeting or linking to? There simply can be no guarantee of interaction or conversion when it comes to buying numbers. What about Facebook? You may get 1,000 new fans for the cost of a new iPod, but what percentage of those fans will stay fans, or click links, or recommend you to their friends? Same with paying for stumbles or direct traffic.

Let's be gracious here and say that the company you hired to fake your fan and follower numbers is a really great company. They've got you a thousand new followers who are interested in what you're tweeting or sharing or blogging about.

Even if the fans and followers are interested in the topic you surround yourself with, the likelihood of them actually buying anything is slim to none. It's not science " well, it some what is " it's common sense.

money-down-drain

We have to go even further than these examples to really demonstrate the damage done by buying numbers online, though. If you invest in traffic or fans or followers, you're missing an opportunity to really grow as a marketer. How can you accurately evaluate your next big marketing project if your numbers are so skewed by dollar signs and robot fans?

Argue with me on this, I'm begging you: paying for links or fans or traffic looks great on the short term, but when it comes to actually selling a product or increasing reputation, the numbers are nothing but fog and mirrors.

What do you think? Is paying for fans online helpful in the long run? Have you had an experience with buying traffic or fans that has worked out great? Share with us in the comments.

Tanner Christensen

Tanner is a creative online entrepreneur who has been writing on creativity, design, business management, and web development for more than nine years. Recently he founded Aspindle creative publishing house.

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6 Responses to “Why paying for fans is like shooting yourself in the foot.”

  1. What about social proof as a motive. The fans might not be "real", but by having a new product or site with 200 fans isn't it more credible to visitors. This is especially true for affiliate sites and wannabe authority sites.

    200 facebook likes would only cost you $5 on Fiverr.

    My thoughts anyway….

  2. Linda Stacy says:

    Admittedly I've been tempted by the ease and instant gratification of buying those first 25 fans for a Facebook page vanity URL. But I haven't done it and probably won't. I agree that paying for fans and followers is not the best strategy. Faking numbers to appear important is just faking it; how long can that last?

  3. Neville, I think Linda brings up a great point. Besides, it's really not hard to get fans for free: just ask all of your friends to signup.

    That way you know that you have real people who care about your business or website (even if they only care because it's yours). It's a method that has proven to work time and time again for me. And it's free.

  4. Marie says:

    What?! I thought this article was talking about paid advertising on Facebook so people can come over and see our FB site and like us then maybe go to our e-commerce site….but you can literally BUY fans? Fantastic! I will go check out Fiverr.

    J/K, but I really didn't know that. And it does sound interesting since my end of the year goal is 200 FB likers, but I do want to come by them honestly. But then again, we are completely redoing our site which will be live soon and then we are kicking the marketing into high gear, should sale past 200 FB fans if things go the way we are planning!

  5. mike says:

    I just bought a Facebook ad and noticed that once I increased my bid, surprise I got 45 new 'Like" on my fan page. I started looking at the profiles of some of these people and they seem to do a lot of "liking" and game playing but have limited friends and/or legitimate looking posts. Did I unwittingly just pay for fake fans? Couldn't facebook get into HUGE trouble if this was true??

    • Tanner Christensen says:

      It's possible that the fans are fake Mike, but that wouldn't be something Facebook is doing. If they are fake fans then it's because of a third party, which you should notify Facebook about. Though, in all reality, Facebook ads don't tend to bring in "fake" profiles (at least, not in any of my experiences over the past two years).