Mannequins Are Not Customers

For quite a while, the issue of buying Likes and Followers, has been a debated topic. It came more into the public eye when Social Media author and speaker Dave Kerpen debated BJ Medelson at the WOMMA summit regarding his status as a NYT Best Sellers list writer, creating the question of whether buying your way to the following you want has value.

It got me to thinking about it. If I walked into a room with 500 mannequins and 500 real people, am I really networking with 1000 people? If the answer seems obvious, then you are on the opposite side from a lot of people in the Social Media sphere.

Numbers vs. Content

For many, Social Media is a numbers game. They believe that it’s solely the Likes and Follows you have that give you the bigger and broader reach. Some businesses, wanting that “look how many people follow/like me” image, will go out and buy the Followers and Likes that make them look popular. In a lot of these cases you will see huge numbers and VERY little conversation or comment around their content. Why? Because it’s not engaging, relevant or even interesting. If it’s not interesting to the people that actually took the time to Like or Follow you, you can imagine how engaging it is for the mannequin in that group.

If you look into the world of Social Media, you will find some people that have huge numbers with a ton of interesting and well engaged content. In all likelihood, this person has paid attention to their analytics and metrics and has spent time watching trends and engaging influencers online. It is also very likely that this person has not come by these numbers overnight, but has earned them over time and with a lot of hard work. The short cut costs money and rarely produces real results.

But, aren’t they seeing my stuff?

One of the myths of buying Likes and Followers is that those accounts are actual people. While some are “real people” most are spam or ghost accounts, with no real engagement potential. Thus, you may actually have great content, but no living, breathing person is actually looking at it. Without that interaction, it is about as wasted an effort as walking up to a store mannequin and asking what it thinks of your new look.

Of course, connecting with a couple of thousand spam accounts does open the door one way: you are now on their radar. Many people are finding that their purchase has led to a sudden flood of spam coming into their accounts, eventually leading them to un-follow the accounts that they had recently paid to have follow them. The value of that purchase diminishes with each click of the un-follow button.

Don’t buy it. Earn it!

In the list of Tips and Tricks that you can find with only a few keystrokes in Google, none of them will show you a viable “short cut” to getting followers. There is no magic pill that will make you a Social Media Rock Star overnight. Some are able to make an impact faster than others, but that is often due to whom they already were, rather than what Social Media made them to be. No, the only way that you become a REAL Social Media presence is by time and effort. By connecting and engaging with influencers, opening up conversations with people that connect with you and sharing relevant content that is interesting and not “push the message” oriented, your business will start to stand out in the crowd. Throw in tools that help you focus and leverage your presence online, as well as paying attention to trends, and you can be sure that those earned follows and likes will be yours.

Here are some tips to help you build your following, without having to buy your way into one.

  1. Find a platform. Play a little with everything (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pintrest, etc.). Find the one YOU enjoy the most and are willing to spend time on.
  2. Connect with the connectors. Find the people that are on that platform that connect the most AND engage the most. Strike up conversations, share their content and get feedback form them on yours.
  3. Be positive and relevant. Nothing turns a follower off more than a stream of negativity or content that is all over the map.
  4. Become the “go-to” person. Work at establishing yourself as being knowledgeable on a subject, product, service or region. Share all that you know about it and be seen as the person that others can go to for that knowledge.

In the end, you want to be targeting a single goal: engagement. A conversation with 500 people is always going to be more valuable than one with 1000 mannequins.

Sean Smith

Sean is Managing Partner in, a Social Media consulting company based in Campbell River, BC. Sean has almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry, from a HelpDesk Manager to business owner. Sean has been active on Social Media platforms, since joining LinkedIn in 2005. Since then he has consulted on the development of Social Media strategies for a wide variety of businesses, from retail to tourism, instructed at workshops, been a guest and keynote speaker at various conferences, has been working as the tech/start-up author for and has recently become the Editor of the Social Media Camp Blog.

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