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Buying Instagram Likes

The other day, I was casually scrolling through Instagram when I came across a picture posted by another blogger. She’s Nigerian so I gotta support a sista, and I liked her outfit, so I quickly double tapped the pic. I continued my scrolling, but I did find it strange that her photo had been posted 15 minutes prior and only had 50 likes. I mean, this woman has over 100,000 followers, and 50 likes in 15 minutes is what my pictures do on a mediocre day.

I’m super nosy so later that day I returned to her account to see how her picture fared. 3,000 likes, wow! Still, that 50 likes in 15 minutes was really tripping me out because I know how Instagram reach works so I clicked on the likes to get a better sense of who engaged with her image.

What I found SHOCKED me. So much. I’m still shook. She was buying Instagram likes.

titus omg gif

I’d read and heard about people buying Instagram likes and followers, but I actually hadn’t witnessed it until a few days ago. Since then, I discovered NUMEROUS – I had to make a darn list to keep track – people that I followed on the gram had bought likes. Some had 10,000 followers, some had 150,000 followers, some were black, some weren’t, but each of them decided to attempt to buy their way to IG success.

To be honest, much of my anger is steeped in wasted and unnecessary jealousy. I have spent an embarrassing number of nights crying about how I can’t seem to get ahead when I produce great, high quality content that provides value. I have dissected the composition of so many flatlays of denim and jewelry and flowers and coffee cups just to try and understand how other bloggers manage to get such high engagement on images without their faces. I’ve even gone to the embed feature on the desktop app to see exactly what time people posted their photos to receive such high engagement.

Here I am, essentially blogging full time while ALSO getting a PhD, comparing myself to people who have apparently built a large and engaged following. People who are subsequently getting more and higher paying collaboration opportunities based on their FAKE engagement. No siree ma’am. Not only do I refuse to participate in that kind of behavior. I reject it. It’s toxic, and I’ve removed anyone who I believe does it from my feed. Because I have worked SO damn hard building my brand authentically for the past 7 years, I couldn’t in good faith continue to support people who decided to use shortcuts.

Now I get that IG is a pain and it’s algorithm is set up in a way that almost forces you to boost your content in order to have more visibility. But there are genuine ways to grow on social media that don’t involve lies. Which is exactly what buying likes is. A LIE. Some honest Instagram growth strategies include: commenting on pictures within relevant hashtags, engaging more with your existing followers, connecting with people in person, collaborating with other IGers to co-create or engage with one another’s content, and even participating in tacky loop giveaways. I was in a comment pod for a while and found it helpful but I had to remove myself in part because some people in the pod bought likes and I couldn’t go against my moral grain and support their content.

You’re probably wondering, how do you know if someone bought likes if you can’t see their credit card statement? Here are some telltale signs (to me at least) of buying likes, and the checks I do before hitting that unfollow:

frankie sleuth gif

  • photos have large number of likes from foreign accounts – especially Russian or Asian (not sure which country, but the alphabets of the users aren’t Roman)
  • photos have large number of likes from people who have very few followers but follow thousands of other accounts
  • people who liked the photo don’t follow the person who posted it. Yes, some stuff ends up on the explore page, but if more likes come from non-followers vs. followers, that’s a dead giveaway
  • photos have huge spike in the number of likes after 30 minutes
  • photos have large number of likes compared to following (ie. 15k followers and consistently receiving 2K likes)

I’m not sharing this to be shady – trust me, if I was, I’d share my list of names! I just think it’s important for Instagram users, especially fellow bloggers that take growth seriously, to know how rampant this practice is. Comparison is the thief of joy. But comparison to people who are lying about their engagement is setting yourself up for madness.

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  1. I recently discovered that people were buying likes. I’m was wondering the same about how I’m producing quality content was not growing. So I’m nosey like you and starting observing. I then realize their followers jump to 300 in two days! I said to myself I need these strategies (lol).

  2. Preach sister preach!

    I would rather be happy with my 100 who are true followers and get inspired with what I do and help me grow than a 100k where they know nothing about me, don’t support my growth staying there as as satisfying number to who peep into my account.

    people are too lazy to sweat their butts off they want short cuts for everything.#annoying.

    Love: Olivia

  3. Thank you! This brand does care to only work with the authentic. It is difficult to sort it all out so I do appreciate the tips! Keep them coming. Heidi, Q-Redew

  4. I don’t know about instagram likes but I find your blog slightly confusing because it’s never really clear what your hair journey is, iykwim. I don’t really know what your goals are (length, health, color etc), if you are achieving them, if you have setbacks, if you are overcoming them. If you are interested in more engagement, I guess that’s my feedback.

    1. Iykwim – I had to look that up! After 7 years of being natural, I’m no longer on a “journey”. My hair and I just exist lol. I don’t have any goals or plans, I simply style it however I like and sometimes share the products I’m using at the moment. Since it’s no longer a big deal for me, I no longer consider myself a natural hair blogger, and I made that announcement in a video in April. I’m still always open to answering questions about my hair if it helps people, because I’m very aware that there’s still more education needed for natural hair care, especially for women with super kinky hair like myself. Hopefully that clarifies any confusion!

      1. Sorry I completely forgot to come back to this! No, that’s fair enough. I think it’s difficult for newer people who aren’t sure what’s going on. I must have missed the video. Good for you for doing something else you love.

    1. Are there? I feel like brands have to choose influencers quickly so some just go with the ones with large followings without digging deep into their engagement.

  5. Hey lady!! I’m just dumbfounded about this article. ..I read your instagram post then headed straight to your article and girl!!!??? This is crazy!! But I agree with you 100% .You reach out to me and at least let me know that you saw my comment and that’s y I followed you in the 1rst place. You have such a loving, friendly, inviting attitude and it keeps me coming back. I can tell you have worked hard and it’s not fair how people are “buying” likes and it should be a way to stop that!! So many people compare their page to someone else and all the time it’s bull!!!!!!!! Thanks for the info and any way I can help let me know!!!

    1. Thank you SO MUCH girl for the support!! It is frustrating that some people are trying to take shortcuts when the rest of us are just working hard at being ourselves!

  6. This has always annoyed me! And I wish brands would dig as deep you did when they always want to work with people who only gave XXX number of followers.

    1. Yup! But from my work with brands the process of campaigns moves SUPER quickly so maybe they don’t have enough time/resources to really dig into people’s followings? Maybe they don’t care? Who knows.

  7. Very interesting! I didn’t know people was doing this. This has me ? my head. I were thinking like you were thinking that the high number of followers were genuine. Thanks for the exposure of the fake!

    1. Some people with large followings are genuine, and some aren’t. And some people with smaller followings are genuine, and some aren’t – I found that buying likes was across the board for big, small, and mid-sized accounts.