Thankfully as an academic, your work and not your following determines your worth
Users consider the number of followers when deciding whether to subscribe to an account. As a result, it is common for individuals to buy thousands of followers in the hopes of attracting real users. In fact, countless celebrities, politicians and companies have been caught buying fake followers.
Account holders can purchase inactive followers or, for a premium, there are services where these fake followers will occasionally comment and like posts. With a market rate of about $3 for every 1,000 inactive followers or $100 for 1,000 “active” followers, purchasing followers can be quite affordable.
Although it may be tempting, we highly recommend avoiding these services and building your community organically. Thankfully as an academic, your work and not your following determines your worth. Unlike celebrities and politicians you can build a strong community by regularly posting interesting fact based articles or even pictures of your experiments.
Attracting “followers” of ill repute
By signing-up to theses services, you will open-up your account to a cast of unsavoury characters. For instance, your new followers will include teenagers posing shirtless or women in explicit poses. You will also be more likely to have bots promoting webcam porn. Not only will this affect the integrity of your “personal brand”, but once invited it is difficult to remove them.
Making your posts less visible
The major social media platforms prioritize posts with a high engagement rate. An engagement rate is the number of likes and comments your posts receive for each follower. It is a good proxy of quality because if few of your followers like a post, it might be because they do not connect with its content.
Therefore, paradoxically, purchasing followers will lead to a steep decline of the number of real users who see your posts.
Bots who comment on posts
Another service offered is having bots like and comment on other people’s posts on your behalf. They can even automatically thank users for liking your own posts. The logic behind automated commenting is that real people are more likely to follow you if you leave them a nice message.
This is a tempting route for academics who lack the time to organically build a following. However, the messages sent are generic, spam-like and have nothing to do with the post. The bots will also like the wrong post (i.e. “I’ve just been fired”). As a result, using these services will at best annoy your fans, but they can also result in your account being suspended for sending spam.
Risking your account being suspended
Buying followers is against the terms of services of every social media network, and they have recently been cracking down on the practice. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter now have teams dedicated to deactivating accounts that spam. They also have recently purged millions of fake followers. They take these aggressive measures to maintain their credibility among advertisers who refuse to pay for ads that will only be shown to bots.