A Review of PopSocial: Everette Taylor’s Instagram Growth Service
I’ve been writing reviews for years. Mostly, they’ve been film reviews, as I’m a writer and filmmaker. Very rarely have I written company reviews on Yelp, although I can vouch that a well-timed tweet is helpful to grab an errant company’s attention.
Well today I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing PopSocial, an Instagram growth service. I had started an online business which, in addition to my film company and consulting work, required new social media pages. To avoid pulling my hair out over how I would scale and grow the pages, I decided to try PopSocial.
The service came highly recommended by Danielle Leslie, a Silicon Valley startup founder who offers a discount code to students in her Course From Scratch program. (She personally vouched for the service, although it’s worth noting she likely makes affiliate income off her referrals, which raises questions of a financial incentive.)
Forbes reported that PopSocial was founded by Everette Taylor, a college dropout and serial entrepreneur.
A decade ago Taylor was homeless and almost dropped out of high school. Last year he founded social media marketing software company PopSocial, which in its first year reported more than $2 million in revenue. Clients include Anheuser-Busch, Microsoft and Hint Water.
Now CEO of ET Enterprises, Taylor oversees companies including PopSocial, MilliSense, Southside Fund, Hayver, and GrowthHackers. I’m familiar with him because his Twitter account friended me (I say this, because it’s likely a growth bot) a couple of years ago and, after following along for about a year, I decided to unfollow. (And after my horrible experience with PopSocial, which I’ll get into later, I re-followed to tweet at him.)
Now let’s get down to business. There is scant information available on the PopSocial website. No staff, very little description of the business, and a bunch of logos. There’s even less information, comparatively, when you register for a $50+/month account to grow your followers.
In case you’re wondering how it works, what I surmise is this (as I’ve asked customer service for clarification and of course they didn’t respond): the site asks you to provide a list of accounts that have a similar audience to the type you’d like to engage; the team (or bot) follows, on your behalf, those pages’ followers; the team also likes content posted by those followers; and the combination of follows and likes simulates real engagement, which lands you real followers.
Through PopSocial, at least at first, I started many new conversations with potential clients and followers that I wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to do on my own given my tight schedule. The problem is, the service was totally inconsistent—for the last month there has been zero activity on my account, even after numerous complaints to customer service that they’re not doing anything in exchange for the money I paid them.
(I’ve just now in this moment realized that, although I was clear about continuing service through July 11th, when my monthly account term expired, and canceling subscription renewal on that date, they actually cancelled my account already, which means they definitely kept my money without doing anything for an entire month in violation of their own policies.)
Related to this, customer service is almost totally unresponsive. When I first noticed there was no activity on my account, I sent a bunch of emails to customer service asking if there was anything I should do to enhance my audience engagement, asking what exactly they were supposed to be doing and why they were not. They literally ignored all of my complaints until, four emails later, I said I would finish out my final month and cancel my subscription.
I suspect that, unless you’re one of the enterprise/premium clients, they ignore you. It’s been one of the most frustrating experiences to date as I launch this new online business, and has cost me hard earned money that I definitely wish I’d spent elsewhere.
But feelings aside, I’d still like to dig deeper and explain exactly why these types of unprofessional—or unethical—business practices should be brought into the light.
One of PS’s competitors made a lot of interesting points that, in hindsight, should have tipped me off. Here’s an excerpt from FanBump’s review of PopSocial:
“If you’re researching PopSocial to learn about whether it’s legit or reliable then you’ve come to the right place! I’m going to break down the positives and negatives of PopSocial and how some of its shortcomings have inspired the creation of our organic Instagram growth service, FanBump.
We Researched PopSocial, This Is What We Found:
PopSocial is a self service growth tool to help you grow your Instagram. In the words of PopSocial: ‘We help brands and individuals reach their target audience and grow their following on social media. Thousands of happy customers’
PopSocial’s monthly plans range from $50 to $50. (sic)
Is PopSocial’s Team Displayed On The Website?:
The Instagram growth industry is notoriously a bit shady and we’ve found that one of the best trust signals is whether the founders behind a service like PopSocial are willing to publicly associate themselves with their business. After looking into this, we found that PopSocial does not display its team on its website.”
There are currently no social media accounts connected to PopSocial—an odd and, in hindsight, suspicious fact for a social media growth company. (Although there are several Twitter accounts called PopSocial, none appear to be connected to the business in question.)
I ultimately tweeted a complaint to Everette personally because, barring any response from customer service, I actually had no other recourse for communicating with anyone at PopSocial. It’s commonplace for questionable businesses to limit your ability to engage with them as a means of minimizing complaints. (Just ask yourself why the Port Authority Bus Terminal lacks a customer service hotline!)
There are a couple of customer complaints available online, some of which flatly call the site a scam. I can neither confirm or deny that, but the spotty service suggests that at the very least it’s poorly staffed and/or manned entirely by bots.
The sad reality is that the internet is rife with borderline shady businesses like this, and tech mavens who claim to run multimillion dollar businesses with Fortune 500 clients. There’s almost no way to tell what’s true or not.
But what bothers me most is that comparatively legit business people—like Danielle Leslie and her former student, Tara Reed, of Apps Without Code—are lending their names and credibility to PopSocial. I realize that I would never have used this service without the recommendation.
I’ve already said too much. Just know that, in my opinion, PopSocial is not worth your money. I have no idea if it’s a legit business, even after having paid for several months of service. That is a sad case and, at the very least, evidence of their unprofessionalism. You would do better to do the work yourself, or hire an actual person to do it, or just find a different service.
Update: Since publishing this post, Everette and Tara have both reached out to discuss PopSocial. You may read Tara’s reply in the comment section below.
Everette wrote: “This June, almost all of our 15k accounts all went down at once. It took us 3+ years to onboard all of those accounts. We were instantly bombarded with support requests, and they just kept coming and coming. Just to give you some insight, things run relatively smoothly here. On average, there’s usually only a couple customer service reps working at a time. We’re a small and nimble team.
This Instagram change literally rocked our world and made our software obsolete for many of users. I had the task of trying to get all the emails answered, find a solution to the software problem, move all of users over to the new platform, etc and do this with a small team. I’ve worked 7 days a week, 18–20 hour days since then.
Not to be shady but because we were a direct threat to Instagram, hence why Instagram has made the changes that it has. Instead of using their ad platform and have to spend thousands of dollars to get the same results. We had to be vague, it was intentional. People could sign up for PopSocial for $50 a month and in its glory days, grow thousands of followers a month, get thousands upon thousands of new traffic to your page a month which could turn into new fans, customers, users, etc. It was beautiful thing.
In terms of your lack of response through customer service, I genuinely apologize. This was literally the worst period in our history. People genuinely would receive great results and service, meaning we didn’t have to have a big staff with customer service. As you saw before, you could just let it go on autopilot. It was nice.
Another thing that’s false, we don’t treat our premium or enterprise clients better. I assure you. We literally have been answering emails in the order we go to them.
As far as social media accounts connected to our account. When Instagram started making changes, we felt it was better to shut it down for the time being.”
I’m not sure if there will be a formal website update on the status of PopSocial, but I found this information helpful. As of May 27, 2020, the site is still accepting customer sign-ups for the service, which has been “shut down” according to the founder.