It's Easy but Not Sensible to Buy Twitter Followers

By Ben  |  3 Aug 2012, 10:00am  |  Category: Social Media

Since our blog “Are you a Twitter Faker” things have gone a bit nuclear! Over 30,000 people have signed up to our tool and they have run 50,000 checks. We've also been featured in The Telegraph  and the New Statesman and this has proven to us that people are genuinely interested and concerned about follower quality.

So where did this all start? We’ve known for a while that purchasing Twitter followers is possible. But this issue really exploded when tech publication The Kernel did a feature on Azeem Azhar (CEO of Social Media influence scoring company Peer Index). The article covered how his Twitter follower count had increased by almost 20,000 'people'! According to The Kernel, these followers had been bought and were in fact, #FakeFollowers!

To give him his due, Azhar came back with a fairly robust response. We can only assume that his singular crime was to be quite naïve in using his own Twitter account and not creating a fake one to purchase #FakeFollowers.

But regardless of his reasoning behind the purchase of these #FakeFollowers, it throws up our first concern. Anyone wanting to proclaim themself as a 'Guru' on Social Media can buy #FakeFollowers, which could make someone appear more influential than they actually are. Although most of us know that the number of followers somebody has is not a legitimate factor in defining a person’s social standing, it could be a factor in the decision making process of a Social Media fearing Marketing Director...

Our second concern is that #FakeFollowers can be purchased for other people! Yes, that’s right. I can take any Twitter Anchor and purchase thousands of Twitter followers at the click of a button. We’ve seen this happen to Milo Yiannopoulos of The Kernel and Louise Mensch, Conservative MP of Corby.

So how easy is it to buy followers? It’s extremely easy. Learning from Azeem Azhar, I set up a fake account and purchased 1,000 followers from Social Media Corp for $10. Within 2 hours I had my 1,000 followers. But after a few days I had more than 3,000 followers! This is over 3,000 more followers than my personal Twitter account, which I’ve had over three 3 years! The hardest part was remembering my PayPal password to make the purchase!

And of course we ran this account through the Fake Follower Check tool, which delivered the results we were looking for! After processing the Twitter followers, the tool identified 95% of these accounts as #FakeFollowers! And the other 5% as inactive.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, we want to make it clear that for businesses there really is no reason to purchase followers in the first place. Although there may be an initial feel good factor and the kudos of showing your MD how well you’re doing, the long term affect on more important KPIs -- like influence and reach -- will be negligible. It is these latter scores that will have an effect on web traffic, purchases and ultimately revenue. Not the number of inactive followers you have! We think your MD is going to be far more interested in the revenue number.

These reach and influence scores are more heavily influenced by how engaged your followers are. Having an understanding of this is going to be of much more value in building a business case for Social Media marketing. The few thousand online strippers that you can buy to add to your audience certainly isn’t going to impact these numbers.

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