Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby was recently interviewed by MarketWatch in the article titled, “This 23-year-old has made $120,000 buying and selling Instagram accounts.”
Here are just some Google search results you will see when searching “How to buy Instagram accounts.”
“How to flip and sell Instagram accounts”
“Sell your Instagram account with real followers”
“Instagram accounts for sale with high engagement”
“Marketplace for Instagram account trading”
But is buying or selling an Instagram account a good business decision? And what are the risks if you get caught?
Flipping Instagram Accounts & Buying Verified Instagram Accounts: Don’t do it
People are flipping Instagram accounts. Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby suggests steering clear of this trend and explains why it is bad for your business.
What are the main ways people buy and sell Instagram accounts? Can you buy verified Instagram accounts?
People are buying and selling Instagram accounts through sites like Swapd, TooFame, Social Tradia and Insta Sale, to name just a few. Instagram accounts that are for sale are advertised through Reddit threads, Facebook groups, such as Buy, Sell, Exchange, Instagram DM’s and Facebook DM’s.
What does it mean to flip Instagram accounts?
Instagram accounts are flipped the same way real estate properties are flipped. Buy low and sell high seems to be the motto. The practice of buying and selling Instagram accounts appears to be most prevalent with niche accounts. Niche accounts are created around a specific vertical of content, which typically attracts a target audience that is primarily interested in that specific subject.
Why are people buying and selling accounts on Instagram? Is it because they don’t want to run the Instagram accounts anymore?
Instagram accounts are bought and sold for a few reasons. Any time something is perceived to have value in the marketing world, it will be exploited. However, the notion of “value” in the Instagram ecosystem is currently one that is up for grabs and is being redefined as we speak. Instagram is currently testing out a feature which would essentially hide ‘like’ counts. This will be a game-changer for the influencer community and will essentially force everyone to start from a more even playing field. While follower counts will still be critical, engagement will be the most important metric to benchmark against.
There is currently an entire underground market that exists within this influencer community for buying and selling Instagram accounts. This is not something that a reputable social media agency would endorse or support. People are buying and selling verified Instagram accounts to make money, not because it has any real intrinsic value for the business who is buying the account.
Why the Instagram influencer bubble was bound to burst
If Instagram hides ‘like’ counts, it will have a massive impact on the entire Instagram ecosystem beyond influencers. If someone wants to become an influencer, they will have to work much harder to gain the same traction they were previously getting. Influencers will have to focus on creating quality content if they want to increase engagement.
I was never a fan of relying on like counts as a metric anyway. When people want to work with Ruby Media Group for social media management services, I always ask what success would look like. If someone says, “An increase in X number of followers,” I know they aren’t a good fit as a new client for the agency. Why? Because follower count is not a true measure of success. Three hundred followers that are actually in your target audience mean way more than 10,000 followers from all over the world who will never be your customers. Vanity metrics are garbage and have always been pretty much worthless. I have been saying this for years. Likes do not equal new customers and profitability!
So, why does this matter for buying and selling Instagram accounts? If you redefine value in a marketplace, you also redefine what people are willing to pay for that perceived value. As the metrics of measurement and value change in the Instagram ecosystem, everything will be impacted, including how people flip Instagram accounts. The main metric they were using to measure these accounts may disappear entirely in a few years.
What makes an Instagram account valuable?
Followers used to be the supreme way that people measured how valuable an account was. Like count was viewed as equally important. But with Instagram testing a feature that would hide like counts, the notion of value will be redefined. Engagement is the most important metric of what makes an Instagram account valuable.
However, an Instagram account in a silo is not a true measure of value. People make the mistake of thinking one Instagram account can make or break their marketing. It can’t. An Instagram account is one tactic within a larger social media marketing strategy that must exist under the umbrella of a strategic marketing communications plan.
Instagram is not a quick fix to raking in new sales overnight. You have to evaluate the platform in correlation with your target audience/ demographic and where they spend their time online. Whether you are B2B vs. B2C also factors into what makes the most sense for your business. I can unequivocally say that the #1 thing that makes an Instagram account not valuable is a fake account purchased through a third party swapping platform. Username and third-party verification is also important, but there is an underground market for getting those blue checkmarks too.
Let’s say someone sells an active account with 100,000 followers with decent engagement. How much would that Instagram account be worth? How much would a sponsored post on that Instagram account be worth?
Instagram accounts sell on the underground market anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. It is difficult to say how much a sponsored post would be worth as it would depend on how many followers the account has, how much engagement the account has, and the activity level on the account.
Do companies ever buy Instagram accounts so that they can have the username?
Brands buy Instagram accounts predominantly for the follower count and prepackaged audience. Username is a factor as well but not the driving force. I always encourage people to secure their username on every social media platform. Even if you don’t plan on using the account, no one can take the social media handle from you if you have secured it first. In an age where personal branding reigns supreme, owning the social media handles for your name is invaluable.
Is it legal to sell Instagram accounts? Buying and selling Instagram accounts violates the company’s terms and conditions. Do people actually get in trouble for buying and selling accounts?
The people who get in trouble are the ones who have bought the Instagram accounts. They may think they got a great deal, but in reality, it is a terrible deal. Why would you want to build something on top of a pre-purchased Instagram account? The Instagram account can essentially be kicked off at any time for violating Instagram’s TOS. That seems like a terrible investment and a big gamble and makes no logical business sense.
Additionally, you have no idea what you are really getting by buying a prepackaged audience that has been built for someone else and not for your business. Furthermore, all it can do is hurt you from a digital marketing perspective. Your ad targeting will be thrown off if it is not custom-tailored to the target audience of customers and prospects you have built for your business. No one else knows your business as well as you do, so why try to purchase it from someone else? Stop looking for shortcuts and do the hard work yourself to build an organic following.
Have you ever heard of circumstances in which an Instagram account has gotten shut down or if someone has gotten banned for buying/selling Instagram accounts?
I haven’t heard of a circumstance in which an account has gotten shut down for buying and selling Instagram accounts because I do everything by the book and don’t fundamentally agree with this practice. I believe in building your own following from scratch — not buying someone else’s and hoping it works out. It is also worth noting that Instagram appears to be kicking people off their platform for any reason they deem fit these days, including what they recently did with the meme purge.
What is Instagram fraud? How do you spot a brand scam on Instagram?
Check out this snippet from our interview on Fox 5 NY on how to spot a social media scam artist. Hint: If you don’t hear from The Director of PR or Marketing, you are most likely dealing with an Instagram brand scam!
Kris Ruby’s Final Thoughts on Buying and Selling Instagram accounts:
- Instagram very clearly states this is against their TOS to buy and sell accounts.
- Do not buy Instagram accounts through these services. It will hurt any targeting digital advertising you are doing, and Instagram can remove the account at any time if it violates their TOS.
- The old metric of likes and followers will increasingly matter less in the future of Instagram marketing as Instagram experiments with hiding like counts.
- Focus on quality engagement and content and stop looking for a shortcut to doing the hard work of building the audience yourself and creating great content.