This social media experiment of buying followers had a crazy result 11 months ago

This social media experiment of buying followers had a crazy result

Ever wondered how people become Insta-famous?

With a saturated market, it's harder than ever for aspiring social influencers to make a name for themselves.

Consistent hard work and engaging with your audience seem to be the key to success, but it's a dirty secret within the industry that some try to grow a following by buying followers.

A recent experiment showed just how easy it could be to amass a large following and even land sponsorship deals.

Mediakix, a marketing agency that connects brands and social media stars, set up Instagram profiles for two completely fake influencers, travel blogger Amanda Smith (@wanderingggirl) and Californian style guru Alexa Rae (@calibeachgirl310).

A post shared by Alexa Rae (@calibeachgirl310) on

In a post called 'How Anyone Can Get Paid To Be An Instagram Influencer With $300 (or Less) Overnight', the agency detailed how it conned brands into deals.


For style influencer 'Alexa', the agency hired a model and took photos during a one-day shoot. The photos were then drip-fed to the Instagram account over a period of months.

Interestingly, for travel blogger 'Amanda', the agency simply used stock images of different exotic locations and blonde girls that didn't show the girl's face.

It then started buying 'followers' (fake accounts) at a cost of $3-$8 per 1,000 followers.

"We started with buying 1,000 followers per day because we were concerned that purchasing too many followers at the onset would result in Instagram flagging the account. However, we quickly found that we were able to buy up to 15,000 followers at a time without encountering any issues."

It also bought engagement for the accounts to ensure that they looked legit.

"We paid around 12 cents per comment, and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes."

After a few months, the agency started applying for brand deals and campaigns on behalf of their 'clients' Alexa and Amanda and, incredibly, had some success.

"We secured four paid brand deals total, two for each account. The fashion account secured one deal with a swimsuit company and one with a national food and beverage company.

"The travel account secured brand deals with an alcohol brand and the same national food and beverage company. For each campaign, the "influencers" were offered monetary compensation, free product, or both."

Mediakix said that the point of their experiment was to highlight the problem of fake followers in the social influencer industry, which it likened to 'ad fraud'.

"Influencers of all sizes know brand dollars are pouring into the space, and in order to compete and secure these sponsorships, influencers are increasingly inflating follower counts and engagement artificially."