Scrolling through social media, it’s easy to stagger across a blogger’s Twitter or Instagram account and murmur “oh. My. GOD, Becky, LOOK at her following. It is so big. I mean, her follower count… is just so big. I can’t believe she’s so… popular, it’s like, OUT THERE.”
Sorry! Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back just shuffled its way onto my iTunes, but in all seriousness… you’ve seen it, haven’t you? The bloggers with billions of backers. And while there’s prominent profiles that you’d never second-guess (“his photography is unreal; that’s why even Taylor Swift is following him!”), equally often you’ll spot successful pages reminiscent of this scene from The Simpsons and think “wait, what GIVES?!”
“Two hundred channels, and nothing but cats.” (So how come their ‘fan’ count rivals Beyoncé’s?!)
It’s an issue more contentious than the WordPress vs. Blogger debate in the blogging community at the moment, and it’s while it’s not exactly a new practice, it certainly appears to be gaining traction: bloggers buying ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. The question is: is it an example of marvellous marketing, or is it marvellously misleading?
born with it worked for it… or maybe she’s paid the way!
Blogging is BOOMING. As Laura shared in The Bloggers Brunch Club group last week, “from August to September ‘14 the number of blog posts posted in one month globally jumped an INSANE 20,000,000. From 43,622,011 to 61,839,539.” Those are huge figures, and with sums continuing to soar, is it any wonder that bloggers are utilising methods to stand-out from the crowd?
Brands are noticing numbers.
Catching a glimpse of the guest list at an event that she was attending, Megan of Thread NZ couldn’t help but observe that beside each invitee’s name was their Instagram follower count. One fashion blogger is reportedly commanding $5000 per Instagram post of a company’s products. Organisations WANT to work with the cream of the digital crop, so you can begin to understand the lure of purchasing advocates, can’t you? It can practically kickstart your career!
Interestingly, having a large entourage – paid or otherwise – more often than not generates genuine followers, too. “Why does this person have more subscribers than I’ve had hot dinners?!” You ponder, puzzled. “Better click ‘follow’ and attempt to find out!”
While sponsoring supporters can appear seductive, it’s worth considering this: what’s impressive at a glance won’t necessarily transfer to your real-life statistics. What happens if a PR firm compensates you for supposedly having an online mob to match Lady Gaga’s, yet request to see your Google analytics and discover that only your Aunt Betsy and boyfriend have read your post on their latest lip gloss? Sky-rocketing statistics don’t always reflect a person’s influence.
Store-bought digits can be a sore point with your readers, as well. It’s one thing to promote an article on Facebook, but if your Twitter and Instagram base seems artificial, it might be asked “hmmm… what ELSE is artificial?”
It can evolve into a debate about ethics, too. If someone’s spruiking an e-course about how to become a “super blogger” – yet are reputed for boosting their world wide web weight with their credit card – how morally sound are they? And what about our blogger friends? If we’re portraying deceptive denominations, are we helping them to feel inferior about their potentially modest quantity? Are we projecting a false image to aspiring bloggers? There’s plenty of food for thought!
When does obtaining an audience become putting your best foot forward… or faking it?