We all know the deal about /buying/ Instagram followers. It’s frowned upon, of course, and maybe even a little dangerous. You might get banned from the platform and it could have a negative impact on your reputation.
But there’s a whole other Instagram underbelly—the seedy world of flipping generic Instagram accounts.
The legality of these black market Instagram exchanges is murky at best. Here’s a little more about buying profiles and how it’s not exactly the same as buying followers.
Buying Instagram followers vs. buying accounts
Brands that buy accounts are trying to jump-start their journey to success. It’s hard to get a social account off the ground and when people see that an account has followers, they’ll be more inclined to follow, too.
Buying accounts pre-loaded with niche-specific followers is a little sketch, but it doesn’t seem to cause harm on par with the practice of buying followers.
As a point of reference, we’ll point toward this New York Times article that looked closely at a company called Devumi. Once a go-to source for athletes and celebrities to grow a social following overnight, Devumi advertised their service as “social media amplification.” In this case, customers believed they were paying for an advertising service that helped them get real fans — though it turned out, they were paying for bots that just looked like real people.
The fake follower racket is well-documented and Instagram takes a hard stance against the practice. But, buying accounts is a bit different. The idea is that you’ll get an account preloaded with followers within your target market and take over “legitimately” from there. Supposedly, the followers of these accounts are real. It seems like most are people who followed some random accounts that align with their interests be it yoga or cars.
When you buy an account, what you get is a generic account with people that represent your target demographic. From there, you can customize your new account and keep growing your following.
Instagram says you are not allowed to buy, transfer, or sell any aspect of your Instagram account. This means that there’s a chance Instagram could shut your account down at any time for violating its terms of service agreement.
How do you buy an Instagram account?
So, if you Google buy or sell Instagram accounts, you’ll see that there are a handful of companies that let people purchase Instagram accounts—fully stocked with followers–as if they were a pair of shoes.
SocialTradia is one such example. It’s actually pretty weird to look at the website. For example, the home page looks like an e-commerce shop—where you can buy accounts related to your niche. From there, we presume, you’ll slap your own branding on the accounts and start influencing away.
SocialTradia allows you to search for accounts by category: think yoga, fashion, or fitness. The accounts cover really broad topics, most with a collection of stock photos that haven’t been edited. They do provide a money-back guarantee, but it’s only good for 24 hours after making the purchase.
Or, there’s ViralInstas, another platform that offers accounts in the modeling, fashion, or animal niches. Follower counts won’t top 15k, which could be a sign that the platform does a decent job keeping fake followers off of the profiles. The accounts come with passwords, a hashtag research tool, and a list of hundreds of hashtags proven successful with the audience.
Or TooFame, another site that promises to provide users with a selection of high-quality accounts with real followers. Here, most accounts hover between 2k and 5k followers and are labeled by niche—fitness, sport, car, weed, are all options on here—and many accounts are marked down.
Is it legal to buy an Instagram profile?
It’s not exactly illegal to buy Instagram accounts—and it’s certainly less of a problem that bot accounts and fake profiles. Instagram might ban your account—so the main concern is, you’ll be out a few hundred bucks, and you might waste some time growing a following — only to have it taken away.
The sites that sell Instagram accounts sometimes offer a layer of fraud protection like SocialTradia’s guarantee. Others aren’t such a smart idea.