Article: Buying Business (Let’s Talk Paid Likes)

So I’ve recently launched The Kind Peach – my vegan, body love, and motivational blog and coaching services – and, while browsing through other coaching services for inspiration I started to notice something very odd. Some people who had been around a similar time to me (a few months) or shorter had an insane amount of likes and reach but with seemingly minimal initial engagement to warrant this.

I’ve never been one to put much stock in a certain like number, but when I notice a huge discrepancy then it does get me scratching my chin in a contemplative manner and going in to involuntary shady-eye squints of ‘I call BS’.

The answer to this discrepancy in most cases is obvious: They’re buying likes. 

Me looking at some accounts.

Buying likes is something that’s been going on for a very long time. It’s not technically illegal but it is, most people agree, a pretty dubious practice…that is, when it doesn’t benefit the sites involved.

Let’s be honest here: When someone uses an outside service to buy likes on Facebook, Instagram, etc. (because, yes, such services do exist and they exist worldwide), then they may get a frowny face and waggly finger of disapproval for sure. But go on to the official post booster, or ad services and buy promotion for ‘user engagement’ then everything is a-okay. Again, now being a business, I often have these sites try to sell me their own services with a quote of the estimated amount of people they can engage compared to the money you give them. The more mo-lah, the more engagement. You get the picture.

Oh look at that.

The major difference, of course, being that you’re engaging real people (in theory) and reaching your clients, rather than just adding a fake bulk of accounts to your profile. But, those fake accounts will still boost your social media presence, which will increase your visibility, which will then get you the likes you need, so what do?

What Do?

I have never been a fan of paid likes.

The whole thing seems incredibly sketchy to me and it just makes me shudder at the thought.

Then again I’m stubbornly moral at times. I mean to the point where if I realize a store has accidentally given me an item for free I will turn tail, go back in to the store and pay for that item.

Some will call me moronic for that, but I literally can’t help it. I don’t want to do anything that I feel is morally shady.

That being said, I also like to think about all sides of a situation, so my mind did inevitably turn to situations which might permit the purchase of free likes and, in this instance, my mind went to gaming.

Pay To Play

In the gaming community there has always been a bit of a gripe and grumble about games that allow you to ‘pay to play’ or, in some cases, ‘pay to win’ by allowing you to buy extra content, extra lives, extra items, or more powerful in-game items in order to gain an edge. Essentially instead of doing all the hard work to get to where you are, these services act as an easy in for people who ‘don’t want to do the work’, but I’ve never seen it that way.

Me when someone rants about ‘Pay to play’ games and gamers.

Sure, there are people who take advantage of these situations, and sincerely just have a huge amount of money that they’re happy to pour in to a game specifically to feel superior and dick over others but, in my experience, that’s not the majority.

Most people who buy additional features with actual money (although privileged in that they can do so) are people who tend to love the game and want to engage but just cannot earn access through time or skill alone. They might be working, have a disability that hinders their ability to perform at the higher levels (or stops them putting in the time they want), or have other commitments such as family or an individual they care for.

In such cases, being able to access a game on a similar platform is incredibly important for that person: It’s enjoyment, enrichment, and perhaps even a vital mental health tool, so why should it be begrudged from them if the only way they can access it is by monetary rather than time and experience means?

The Gamer Analogy

By that logic, which I’m fine with, if someone has a business, a cause, or a personal account and they want maximum engagement but cannot put in the time to reach that, then should they be condemned for using a monetary means to reach out instead?

I really don’t know.

It’s certainly not as cut-and-dry as my initial reactions would suggest.

Say there’s a single mum wanting to launch a business, limited in time, desperately in need of money, and they need a follower boost just to get their foot in the door so that their family and business have a chance. Can I really say ‘No, how dare you buy yourself some likes!’ to that person?

What about the charity that, if noticed, will literally save lives?

The individual suffering from depression or another mental illness and wanting the follower boost to then get the sincere recognition they want, using it as a quick stepping stone?

I am the queen of the mental flip flop.

In all of those cases I really struggle to give an easy answer and I think it’s much more a case of what sits well with that person, what they personally want from their social media accounts, and how they market themselves.

If, for example, they’re marketing relies on the fact that they have sooo many followers that endorse them then, yeah, dick move, massively immoral, but the above cases? I cringe and wiggle at the morally grey zone.

But one thing that I am adamantly against is reviewers buying likes in any instance.

The Big Reviewer No-No

To be honest, this post wouldn’t exist had it not been for the fact that I had an inside source suggest to me that like buying, even among reviewers, might be more prevalent than one would imagine, and that sits really badly with me?

‘But why Emmeline?’ you might ask, ‘After all, you’ve been lenient (or at least empathetic) with other like buying scenarios, why is this different?’

One clear reason: Appraisal integrity.

Words to live by.

Y’see, when you’re in the business of appraising items then it’s not just the item that readers are wanting to know more about, it’s the reviewer themselves.

I mean, I don’t want to talk for you, my readers, but I myself have been a consumer that looks for reviews and outside options too. And, in those cases, I want to know that I can trust the opinion of the person that I’m following, and that I can trust that the endorsements they’re getting (which typically translates via comments, likes, and other forms of user engagement) is all ‘on the level’ as it were.

If a reviewer feels like they need to buy likes in order for their content to have value then, not only are they basically saying that they’d rather have false endorsements for their own credentials – rather than earned ones – but they’re also wasting money and energy in the number on their social media pages rather than on what matters: The product reviews themselves.

If a product reviewer seems to be putting most of their focus on getting known, hitting a certain target number, or just generally on their social media profile then their priorities are pretty damned skewered. Instead the focus should be on providing extensive, fair, product appraisals, and making sure that their readers get the information they need, and if it’s not then can you really trust that reviewer? I don’t think so.

In fact, some of the most awesome, professional, and generally on-point reviewers that I know aren’t determined by the amount of likes and followers they have on social media. Are these people under-represented and deserving of a larger following? Absolutely, but the point is that a large following doesn’t, and shouldn’t,determine the quality of a good reviewer.

So, not only does buying false followers as a reviewer not only devalue your legitimacy in terms of reader endorsement, but it also shows a horrific misdirection of focus and energy (showing you don’t care about, or respect, the thing which matters most – your readers), and isn’t even going to reflect reviewer quality anyway. Heck, there’s an argument to be made that buying likes in general is a waste of time, but for the reviewer in particular I feel like it speaks much more of a certain attitude which is just fundamentally incompatible with a reviewer’s integrity.

At least that’s my stance.

So How Do You Discover If A Page Had Purchased Likes?

Really, any of the morally grey areas that I applied to people buying likes in general could be applied to reviewers doing the same. Plus, again, buying likes is a personal choice, and if you feel circumstances dictate it and you’re willing to be transparent about it (or not) then that’s your own personal jam. Whatever.

If you want to buy likes, that’s your beeswax, but I’m vegan, so beeswax is a no-no for me.

If, however, like me, you don’t like the idea of a reviewer having purchased likes and you want to make sure that you avoid such reviewers then there are, thankfully, easy ways to spot a like-buyer:

  • Look at the amount of likes compared to the general reviewer community. Does it look proportionate? If not then there’s probably some tomfoolery going on.
  • Compare the amount of likes/followers a page has with the duration that the account has existed. Again, if there’s an unreasonable discrepancy then there might be some BS in the air.
  • Look at the likes/followers page. If it’s full of community members or accounts that seem to be in keeping with the person’s area of expertise then they’re probably on the level. If not then you know what’s going down.
  • See if the account/user celebrates their follower count with posts/giveaways/etc. Reaching 250 likes was one of the most amazing feelings for me, and that excitement grew at 500, 1000 and so on. If you know you’re like/follower count is legitimate then you are happy about every single person who chooses to support you. Purchased likes/followers? Not so much.
  • Look at the engagement from the community vs. the likes. If someone has over 1 million followers but only gets like 10 comments per post then there’s very little chance that they’ve built a tangible following.

That’s All For Now

I could never personally fathom buying likes or followers to try and boost myself inauthentically and, although I can see why others might do it, I struggle with understanding why someone feels like getting a certain like or follower count is the be-all and end-all of getting there foot in the door of their chosen area.

Real, meaningful connections come from authentic engagement. Buying a sense of authenticity? While I won’t outwardly condemn people for doing so, I don’t see what it could ever bring that could replace the feeling of support and community you get from a solid follower base, no matter the size.

A special thank you to my sponsor for this post who, due to its sensitive content, wishes to remain unnamed.