If you type “buy Facebook likes” into Google, you’ll see how easy it is to buy phony internet followers. You can buy 1,000 Facebook likes for $29.99; 1,000 Twitter followers for $12; or any other type of fake social media credential, from YouTube views to Pinterest followers. Celebrities, businesses, and even the U,S. government have purchased phony Facebook likes from “click farms,” boiler-room operations where workers like, like, and like with thumbs up buttons and retweets that inflate the numbers.

Don’t try this. It’s a waste of your money, because your goal as a marketer is to create real relationships with real online visitors, convert those relationships to clients, and in the end boost your bottom line. Internet marketing requires authentic engagement, something that can be genuinely difficult for busy business owners and professionals. Working with an experienced internet marketing agency is a much wiser option than buying phony influence. Internet marketing professionals can help you win views, likes, and retweets by earning them. Instead of wasting your money with shady operators based overseas, an internet marketing agency offers professional, hands-on marketing services and advice that legitimately boosts your online brand and presence.

Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of internet-using American adults on social media leaped from 8 percent to 70 percent. In 2005, Facebook had 5.5 million users; at the end of 2014, it claimed 1.4 billion users. Professionals love social media because the leads generated through social media have a much higher chance of converting into actual clients. Google’s algorithms consider social media, so a large following lifts your position in search-engine rankings.

Researchers have determined that buying and selling fake followers, likes, and retweets is a half-billion-dollar-a-year business, but only those creating and selling the deceptions are profiting. Lawyers, financial advisors, real estate brokers, and other professionals cannot be caught in unethical behavior. If you’re ready to do online marketing the right way, or if you’ve been doing it right all along but you need some fresh ideas, talk with the professionals at an internet marketing agency as quickly as possible.