If money can't buy you love, it can at least buy you Twitter followers and Facebook fans.
Companies that get users to follow you in exchange for a price are increasingly popular. Appropriately named websites like BuyRealTwitterFollowers promise up to 100,000 Twitter followers for a price between $77 and $247. BuyRealFansAndLikes will get you as many as 100,000 "likes" on Facebook for somewhere between $27 and $1597. Similar sites exist for just about every platform, including YouTube, Tumblr and Vimeo.
The concept behind "buying" followers is to boost your standing in the world of social media by appearing more popular. Authors, wannabe celebrities or new companies will often buy followers to seem more established in the hopes that it will translate into a real following.
"It's common with anyone who wants to present themselves to the public in a certain way," said Eric Yaverbaum, associate publisher of SocialMediaMags.com. "The more popular you look, more popular you become."
The rules of the game are simple. The companies that provide followers set up a mutual agreement with their users. If you pay for 1,000 followers, you have to follow those users, too. The followers aren't always real people -- they can sometimes be accounts programmed to follow any users who follow them. And if you stop following them at any time, you'll lose them as a follower, too.
But is it worth it to buy followers or "likes" just to seem more popular? Yaverbaum says no, comparing social media to the no-rules era of the Wild West. The concept also doesn't do much for your Klout, which is your measurable influence on social media. While you're getting plenty of followers, they're not interacting with you through comments, "likes," or retweets.
"It's like building a reputation on quicksand," Yaverbaum said of buying followers. "If you want to be viral, it's got to be pure."
While buying followers is a quick way to appear more embedded in the world of social media, it's no substitute for garnering an audience that is genuinely interested in interacting with you, Yaverbaum says.
"You're only worth following if you're putting out interesting information every solitary day," he said. "I think if you want influence, you want it from people who actually want to hear what you have to say."