Many people (including South Africans) on social media have openly spoken about selling their social media accounts but offers are often priced in dollars. There are even YouTube tutorials about it.

Under the hashtags #igforsale and #instaforsale, people advertise Instagram accounts that have high follower numbers, a significant number of them being fan accounts.

In a recent video, natural hair and beauty influencer Sinovuyo Mondliwa shared her experience of wanting to sell her Instagram account before pursuing a career as an online content creator.

She says that in February, she tried selling her Instagram account with about 30 000 followers but couldn’t find someone willing to match her asking price of R10 000.

“Everyone was offering me R4 000, R5 000 and I think at 30 000 followers I actually wanted R20 000 for the profile,” she said in her video.

When we reached out to Sinovuyo for her to tell us more about her experience, she declined to comment.

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As South African social media users are seeing what can be described as a slow popcorn effect for the buying and selling of social media account, globally this seems to be quite a regular practice.

But fake followers, or bots, have been a concern for a long time in the social media space.

Bradley Elliott, the founder of Platinum Seed, said he hasn't heard of people selling their Instagram accounts locally but has heard of what can be a similar practice in the U.S.

He says, “The instances I know of brands or businesses buying accounts in the U.S. is that they keep the influencer on the account but the brand doesn’t take over the account."

"It’s almost like having a brand ambassador or a celebrity as a brand ambassador,” he adds.

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When it comes to individual people completely handing over their Instagram accounts to another person for cash, he is more skeptical.

“From our point of view, for a credible industry, selling an Instagram account is not something we advocate for much,” he says.

His concern is partly linked to the fake followership that has spread on different social media platforms in the form of “bots” that “aren’t authentic”.

“There’s been a huge backlash, not only Instagram but on social media as a whole, around false following on accounts – especially on Twitter and Facebook, and Instagram too – where what people have done is they disregard followership. Those followers aren’t real, they lack engagement and they try monetise these accounts. What backfires is that it’s about quality of followers and not number of followers,” says Bradley.

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But, if someone absolutely wanted to buy or sell their Instagram account, Bradley has a few points of what impacts how attractive an account is and how payment negotiations can be made.

First off, he notes that there are different classifications between South Africa and the U.S. when it comes to influencers.

“In the U.S. for 25 000 to 50 000 thousand followers you’d probably pay for a micro influencer, whereas in South Africa when you have 50 000 followers you’d pay for a macro influencer. So I think our market is a lot smaller and probably slightly behind in terms of the trends,” says Bradley.

Selling an Instagram account

If you want to sell your account Bradley says the first thing you would want to negotiate is to get payment upfront a soon as possible.

Secondly, the terms should be around removing yourself from all responsibilities associated to the account so you can’t be legally liable in future.

Lastly, if there is an ongoing relationship with you and the buyer after selling the account you should arrange to be paid a service fee or some sort of remuneration for continuing to run the account and organise a contract for the duration of your service.

Here's a video on tips from Youtuber T.C Atkinson:

One key takeout? "There's a difference between being profitable and popular".

Buying an Instagram account

What counts to people who have interest in monetising an account is not only the amount of followers and reach but also the quality of user engagement in the form of comments, likes and reposts.

The average rate of user engagement should typically be, according to Bradley, around 5% and 10% of the following.

He says the longevity of the account is important as well, to see how long the account can be sustained without the influencer.

“Most of the followers are there for the influencer itself, the person they are following, so as soon as another brand or a person started taking over the account the likelihood over the short term the engagement [may be maintained] but over the long term they’ll probably lose interest,” says Bradley.

He also adds that, “if you are a brand or a person you obviously was to align that followership to your brand.”

Just want to build a following on your own?

For those who want to build a following and monetise off social media but don’t want to buy an existing account, Bradley suggests the following:

1. He says, stick to what you know and are really passionate about. “If you know nothing about fashion, don’t go try put up a whole bunch of fashion posts – align with your interests. It’s an inspiration platform, you really want to get inspiration from people who know what they’re talking about and who are doing things differently.”

2. Aesthetics are important. “Craft your content beautifully. If you look at the overwhelming amount content [online] it’s very difficult to break through the clutter.” He adds that it will help if you are extremely creative with the posts you’re putting up.

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3. On the more technical side he says make sure you hashtag posts correctly to make it easy to get discovered, and adds you should try post as least twice a day.

“Frequency of content, quality of content and using hashtags correctly are very important,” says Bradley.

Have you ever bought or sold your social media account? How much did you get? 

Chat to us here, we’d love to hear from you.

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