Astroturfing, the practice of increasing your follower count in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest, has become an internet phenomenon.
It is the fastest road to popularity.
The benefits of astroturfing are undeniable.
With the right amount of followers, you can make other people believe that you have higher value than you actually do - that you are actually important and have something to offer them.
A high follower count gives you the illusion of popularity, which in turn increases your worth in the social media sphere.
Eventually more people will follow you, further bolstering your online popularity.
But enjoy it while it lasts because astroturfing will cost you a lot.
While you can gain as much as 100,000 followers in a day by spending cash on services that automate the follow system, social media platforms have it all figured out.
They know about these services, and they are very aware of the bots or spam accounts these services use to boost the followers of their clients.
Social media platforms take action in two ways: they ban the spam accounts, significantly reducing your followers, or they can simply ban your account for being guilty of astroturfing.
Either way, your efforts will be wasted and your money will be sent down the drain.
Let's say you are careful.
You don't gain that many followers through astroturfing and your account doesn't get banned.
Great! But even so, the number of spam accounts following you will send red flags to other people - both your followers and those who are considering to follow you.
They will find out that you have been pretending to be popular by amassing fake followers.
As a consequence, your online credibility will be greatly reduced.
You will lose followers and you will stop gaining real followers.
Besides, having thousands of fake followers is useless.
Remember that these fake accounts are bots, and so they are unable to like or share the content you post.
One of the main purposes of social media is exposure.
Without likes or shares, the things you post won't get a wide reach, and the exposure of your account to other people will be limited.
The best way to go about this is to build your follower count from scratch.
Engage with people, share interesting content, contribute useful information, show that you care, offer tips and advice, and develop close relationships with your followers.
The key action here is to build trust.
The more people trust you, the more followers you will have.
It might be helpful to apply other principles of friendship such as compassion, correction, comfort, frankness, compliance, and commitment.
Amassing real followers will get you the exposure that you need, along with the popularity that you oh-so-crave.
By then you will no longer need to buy friends or astroturf.
You can still use astoturfing to jumpstart your popularity.
Use it with caution however, and focus more on how you can attract the right kind of social media attention.