“Buy YouTube views! $1 per 1000 views!”
“Buy Twitch Followers Cheap, just $10 for 1000 Followers!”
You have probably seen ads like these before – offers for subscribers, views or followers in exchange for payment. And, for content creators that are just starting to build their brand, these offers can be attractive.
Websites that offer this type of service will often use a sales pitch along the lines of: “the internet is a competitive place, buying subscribers the only way to stand out.” But, while that might feel true, it is demonstrably false.
Experiment after experiment has shown that – regardless of platform – buying subscribers, views or followers is not a viable long-term solution for your channel. There are various reasons for this, and we break them down for you below.
- It’s not good for monetization
- It’s not good for engagement
- Platforms don’t allow it
- There’s no quality guarantee
If you are an advertiser, your goal is for people to end up buying your products or services. So, if your marketing becomes directed at fake subscribers – even if they are “active” (i.e. they register activity to circumvent platform tools that remove inactive accounts) – you are ensuring that people will not end up spending money on your products or services. They are not your target audience, so why would they?
If you are an influencer, the primary purpose of your channel is maintain and increase a community of followers, and this is largely facilitated through the generation of revenue. While there are several ways to do this, possibly the least effective method is to buy subscribers, views or followers. Your income stream is dependent on sales from advertisers, and it is impossible to influence subscribers that are not genuinely engaged with your content.
Gaming companies, themselves, don’t usually have YouTube channels with large followings (e.g. at the time of writing, the official Fortnite YouTube channel has just under six million subscribers). It is usually more important for gaming companies to facilitate the creation of communities rather than upload their own videos.
Influencer marketing works because an influencer can build up a loyal following, and then leverage that following to introduce products or services to potential customers. Without that loyal following, influencer marketing doesn’t work as intended. There are no effective shortcuts when cultivating loyalty – it takes time.
Because engagement can be measured easily, it can be obvious if your content has had inorganic growth. Across platforms, there is a clear relationship between the number of subscribers and channel engagement, so if your content varies from this relationship by too much, it will begin to look suspicious to those platforms.
Buying subscribers (obviously) increases the number of subscribers, but since they are usually inactive, that reduces engagement with your content, and a platform’s algorithm will make it less visible. Less visible content means less revenue for advertisers, and less revenue for influencers. As a result, most advertisers choose influencers based on 30-day average view counts, not on number of subscribers.
Virtually all content platforms, including Twitch and YouTube, condemn buying subscribers, views or followers. In November 2018, Instagram stated in a post that it would be taking increased steps to reduce inauthentic activity on its platform. More recently, in April, it was reported that Facebook is suing a New Zealand company and three of its directors for allegedly selling fake likes, views, and followers to Instagram users.
This has two main consequences for buying subscribers. Firstly, you are opening up your channel to the risk of being suspended or removed due to breaching terms of service. Any real/organic subscribers that you may have previously gained could be lost.
Secondly, it’s not just Instagram that is employing active measures to reduce the various forms of fake engagement – there is a cross-platform movement to purge it. So, there is a considerable risk that even if buying subscribers does provide your channel with a boost in the short term, it could be quickly undone – meaning that you will have wasted your money.
Though buying subscribers is not illegal, it is certainly morally questionable. A good indicator of this is how likely you are as a content creator to tell people that you are buying subscribers in an attempt to boost your channel. Given that, a company that offers such services is unlikely to be overly concerned with the quality of its service. If you are not fully satisfied with it, to whom can you turn?
Just as you have probably seen ads for buying subscribers in your time on the internet, you have probably also seen clear signs of fake engagement on other channels:
- Generic comments that could have been posted under any video
- Comments in languages completely disconnected from the language of the content
- Spam, which risks spreading to your organic subscribers, and sometimes links to products affiliated with illicit or unrelated companies
When game developer Strange Quest partnered with Matchmade to test performance and start a community for Blastlands!, it achieved an engagement rate of 12.28%. Given that engagement rates for YouTube gaming videos in Latin America are currently around 7%, this campaign was a huge success. If the LATAM influencers that were paired with Strange Quest had decided, however, to buy subscribers or views, the developer would – by any measure – have not reached anywhere near this level of engagement.
The Bottom Line
Buying subscribers simply doesn’t work – for influencers or advertisers.
Instead of influencers risking or losing their money, they should use it tactically. If they have access to enough funds to buy subscribers, data consistently shows that they would be better off investing that money into paid campaigns.
Advertisers themselves should be aware of the possibility of influencers buying subscribers, and so should focus on influencers with high view rates and high engagement rates.