Instagram ‘giveaways’ are contests that bring together a number of influencers to offer a prize to their combined followers.
Unauthorised by both brands and Instagram, the prizes can’t be verified and taking part in one can pose a huge risk for influencers. So why bother? Unsurprisingly, boosted followings are promised by giveaway organisers. That’s what convinced @clairebearlondon to take part, but as she would discover, the short term gain resulted in something much darker.
“I’d been receiving emails from people inviting me to join giveaways since I started influencing. You’ll probably be familiar with them. I’d certainly seen accounts taking part. They usually come with a caption like: ‘I’m teaming up with some of my favourite creators to give one of our lucky followers . To be in for a chance of winning, follow these 45 accounts and comment/like on their last five posts.’
Well eventually, I caved. I desperately wanted to boost my engagement and told myself that if my favourite influencers are doing it, what’s the harm in me trying it? It wasn’t as if I was buying fake followers. I was simply putting money in to a pot to buy a prize for one of my followers. Also, I didn’t think anyone would notice.
How wrong could I be?
The first day was crazy. I started to receive loads of new followers and my posts were reaching high engagement. However, most of the people who were commenting were from South America and this sudden rush of different engagement completely distorted with my demographics. I gained around 2,000 followers in the first day. It then slowed down over the next four days ending in around 4,000 new followers.
Over the following month, the followers started to drop off. I couldn’t blame the 15 year olds from Brazil for unfollowing me, they just wanted to win the prize. What ended at 4,300 went down to 3,000, then 2,500 and down and down it kept going. Then I discovered that most of my real, hard-earned followers had unfollowed me and all I was left with were bots, or ghost accounts that people use only to enter competitions.
The reality was, I had paid for a bunch of fake followers.
I was horrified. I spent weeks going through my account and manually deleting all the inactive and bot-like accounts. Manually assessing each and every follower took such a long time and felt awful. I temporarily lost the trust of my followers too. I could tell my sponsored posts were receiving lower engagement than usual.
It’s taken me months and a lot of hard work to get my account back to a good place and I massively regret my decision to take part. I’ve learnt the hard way that there is no quick fix and the quality of followers I gained were no better than paid-for fake followers.
I’d always prided myself in my authenticity before this, so felt sharing my experience was important. Not only to be truthful, but to warn other influencers to steer clear of them. It means a lot to my followers and it means a lot to me. Thankfully the reaction has been amazing and I’m so grateful for that.
I urge others considering giveaways to think of the consequences. I lost followers, my engagement plummeted and agencies noticed. It could easily spiral, as influencers pay for giveaway after giveaway in an attempt to recover the damage. The cost could run into the thousands and I’d bet that it would only make things worse. Sadly there is a whole community who prey on people like myself who are looking for quick fixes. Who knows if the prizes exist or are actually won?
If your engagement has plateaued, the best thing to do is bite the bullet and commit to authenticity. Purge your account of fake followers. Rethink your content. Engage with your followers. Stop comparing yourself to others and ignore the people who jump up 500+ followers a day. Be true to yourself and I’m certain it will get better.”