With no more than RM200.
A couple of months back, I had dinner with a friend - let's call her Suzie (name changed to protect our friendship). She's absolutely gorgeous, smart, funny and someone who's worked in the entertainment industry for many years. I adore her for her genuine personality and Instagram flair (also secretly jelly she's the perfectly packaged dream power woman). When you meet her IRL, there is no doubt in your mind that this person could be someone famous, and maybe even... “insta-famous”.
Wait, what and who is considered “insta-famous”? Well, in the media industry, it means: you have enough followers on your Instagram account for brands to want to work with (translation: pay) you to tap into your influence with your followers. To put a number on it, this can mean anything from 20 thousand to two-million-and-beyond followers. For contrast, normal human people, like me, have zero thousand followers. Or rather, I had zero thousand followers. You can jump ahead to see how I bought 5,000 new followers.
I asked Suzie: "How do you charge clients for your Instagram postings?"
Suzie: "Do you know how many people are buying followers, likes and comments?"
Me: "That's not what I asked... but... I'm aware some people buy some follo..."
Suzie: "NO, NO, NO. SO MANY people are buying followers. It's so blatant!"
Me: "I'm sure it's not as rampant as you ar..."
Suzie proceeds to attack her phone screen and seconds later, shows me the various sites and packages out there you can buy from for instant followers.
Mind blown. And my jaw dropped to the other side of the world.
Call me naive, but I didn't realize just how available, easy and - most shockingly - relatively affordable it is to amass thousands of followers. Fake fans literally at your fingertips. Like you're buying iCloud space. Just add to cart. For less than an avocado toast (USD2.97 on one site), you could get 100 new followers and at the top end of that scale is USD249.95 for a whopping 50,000 followers. That's minor "influencer" territory right there.
All sorts of questions went through my head: How many people are doing this? Where is the Instagram police? Why am I angry? Why am I fascinated? What is this life?
It must be said that Suzie, who has organically grown her followers over the years, was obviously just venting to me. This really opened my eyes especially since she got into the details of how to tell whether a person's audience is genuine or bought (hello, world of bots and zombie accounts!).
But I just had to see it for myself. And so I sacrificed the integrity of my Instagram account and about USD39.99 to see just how insidious these follower-pimping sites are.
10.26pm: Check out
All they ask for is your Instagram username and email address, and next thing I know, I’m at the checkout page.