Someone sent me a link to this piece in the Guardian yesterday, “Is there any point in ‘buying’ your fans?“. It’s a pretty open and shut case really. They mention a few companies who, for a nominal fee, will boost your social media numbers up, even chart sales. I’m not going to re-write the article, as it’s worth a read and you should check it out. Instead, I’m going to provide a different perspective as to what is going on here and the reasons why you shouldn’t buy followers. It has to do with psychology.
It boils down to social proof. A lot of you will know the concept but might not have heard it called that before. An example of social proof might be, when you see an unusually big crowd gathered together. You instinctively want to check it out. Celebrity endorsements are also another good example of how marketing companies use social proofing to get us interested in products or services. You think others find this interesting, there’s a chance you will too. The closer someone can identify with the endorsement, the more of an impact social proofing has.
Facebook uses social proofing to the nth degree. Its ability to continually update you with what your peers, friends and family like, whether it be companies, products, or music. This has a profound influence on you, whether you realise it or not.
The Enemy of Social Proof is Congruency
So a band has paid a company to get them x amount of followers/fans on Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. Maybe you have thought to yourself, ‘wow, these guys have 90k people following them, I wonder what the fuss is all about’. A surplus in fans will never make up for the quality of your music and that’s why the enemy of social proof is congruency.
If people do check your music out, they’re going to asses the music from the benchmarks of their tastes. They’re probably going to tell themselves they’re not sure how 90k people like this music. If your music isn’t deserving of a significant fan base, it won’t be congruent with the numbers and it will eventually put people off.
Surely it’s Worked By Getting People to Listen?
You could accept the argument that social proofing create intrigue or interest and indeed encourages more plays. However, if a band invests their time and energy into cultivating their own fan base they’re going to reap larger rewards. Fans are passionate people. They love telling their friends about great new music and that passion is contagious. Social proof would be at work once more, but this time it’s authentic. If you buy followers, they become passive, not passionate. They’re not following you because they like you, they’re doing it for the money. They sure aren’t going to wax lyrical to their friends about you and this is why ultimately buying followers is a dead end.
Why you Shouldn’t Buy Followers: Further reading
If you’re interested in reading more about social proof and other methods of influence, you should start with this book: “Influence: the psychology of persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini.