Businesses face numerous decisions every day regarding the best ways to build their online presence, structure their social media strategy, and engage with customers online. Organizations new to social media worry that a lack of social media followers will undermine their credibility, deter others from following their account, and generally make them look foolish. Even many experienced social media marketers believe that “more is always better” when it comes to social media followers.

In response, many companies offer to “sell” you a certain number of followers for a price. This practice is rampant on Twitter, and it supposedly gives businesses new to online interaction a certain amount of social media “street cred.”

I personally don’t believe in paying for social media followers. I’d rather people followed my brand because they want to, rather than because I shelled out some cold, hard cash.


I guess for the same reason I prefer to hang out with friends who enjoy being around me rather than with people I’ve paid to spend time in my presence. The relationship is more meaningful, genuine, and rewarding.

Because of this philosophy, none of the new followers we have gained here at Boostability over the last year were paid for. Instead, we grew our numbers organically—nearly 5,000 new Facebook followers, over 15,000 new Twitter followers, and nearly 2,000 new followers on LinkedIn.

Wonder why your company should do the same? See the primary reasons organic followers are better than paid followers on social media.

1. Paid Followers Don’t Share or Retweet

One of the most important reasons for an organization to become active on social media is to take advantage of the “viral” phenomenon. I don’t mean that your goal is necessarily to create content that spreads so quickly it shatters the Internet. What I mean is that organic followers (i.e., people who follow you because they are interested in your brand or industry) are more likely to share or retweet your content to their own followers, many who may share that same interest.

Paid followers (i.e., those who only follow you because they’ve been paid to do so) are almost certainly never going to share your content. Even if they did, their own social networks may consist only of other accounts they have been paid to follow.

2. Paid Followers Don’t Engage

Another valuable reason to get involved in social media is to engage with your followers. “Engagement” means different things to different organizations, but in general, it boils down to interacting with your audience in ways that answer their questions, solve their problems, and make your brand look good.

Customer Service

For instance, social media is a terrific platform for customer service. In fact, some companies have moved their entire customer service department online because it is convenient for both them and their audience. It also lets companies engage with customers in a timely manner without having to staff a department of 24-hour customer service reps.

Public Relations

The use of social media for customer service purposes also has a public relations angle. By publicly addressing problems and questions on social media, you improve your brand’s image. Even if your customers come to you with complaints, other visitors will see that you take those complaints seriously, try to address the problem, and offer a solution. This situation is ultimately a public relations win for your organization, even though it started as a complaint.

Real Relationships

When you engage with real people, you develop real relationships that can lead to real opportunities. For example, if your followers like your content, they may ask you to do some guest blogging. You might find yourself invited to participate in a seminar, webinar, or a Twitter Chat. You might receive an invitation to headline a speaking engagement where you can further build an audience and promote your product or service.

Paid followers are unlikely to engage with you in any meaningful way. In other words, without organic followers, you lose both the customer service and public relations facets of your social media strategy. Even if you have tens of thousands of followers, if they do not engage with you and with each other, you’ll receive no benefit from them.

3. Paid Followers Don’t Provide Feedback

Another valuable aspect of social media is the way it provides you with a steady stream of feedback about your product, service, or organization. Unfortunately, paid followers provide little feedback. Since they are not actively interested in your brand, they may know little or nothing about it and can provide you with no insight as to how you can improve or what you are doing right.

On the other hand, organic followers—those who follow you because they are interested in your niche, industry, or brand—often have a lot of insight into your competitive landscape. By interacting with them, you can become aware of new opportunities or potential pitfalls that you otherwise would not have noticed.

4. Paid Followers Don’t Buy Your Products

Perhaps the most fundamental reason you engage on social media is to improve your bottom line, and paid followers rarely help you do that at all. The likelihood that they will purchase your products is miniscule. Organic followers, however, are at least somewhat likely to purchase your product or service, given that they have indicated an interest in your product, industry, or organization by following you voluntarily.

How to Get Real Followers

To get real followers, simply practice a few simple online rules:

  • Post regularly: Followers don’t want to see three-month gaps between your social media posts. Post regularly and often, for best results.
  • Add social plug-ins to your site: Make it as easy as possible for your blog readers to become Twitter or Facebook followers by adding plug-ins to your website.
  • Engage with your audience: Be sure to interact with your audience. Respond to questions, show that you respect their needs, and quickly address any problems or complaints.
  • Share great content: Make sure that the content you share is appropriate, relevant, and valuable. When you create and share engaging content, you increase the odds that readers will follow you and share your content with others.

In the long run, real followers will benefit you a great deal, while paid followers will almost certainly not, for the reasons above. They don’t share or retweet your message, so you lose out on the opportunity for viral content. They don’t engage with you in any meaningful way, so you don’t get the PR, customer service, and relationship-building benefits that come with real followers. Paid followers give you no feedback, so you don’t learn what you’re doing wrong—or right! Finally, paid followers are unlikely to purchase your products.

Avoid offers from anyone wanting to sell you social media followers, and instead concentrate on building a large, organic following of real people who will engage with you and help you build a brand powerhouse.