Why buying Twitter followers is a total waste of time
We’ve written about the rise of fake Twitter followers a few times here before. Last year, for instance, when questions were raised about then Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s million plus follower count. Some thought he had bought them, a claim that was denied. We looked at the ways people acquired these followers here.
What has become very clear about buying followers is that anyone doing a check up on who your thousands of followers actually are will soon discover that you are a phony, was how Lisa Devaney put it.
That doesn’t, however, seemed to have stopped people engaging in the practice including it seems former Conservative parliamentary candidate Mark Clarke.
Clarke has experienced an eye raising rapid rise in Twitter followers since he joined in the microblogging network in March.
His case was recently highlighted on Sunny Hundal’s blog. I’m sort of surprised people are still at it after all the publicity surrounding Gingrich and other stories, but like dollar signs people are dazzled by big numbers. Twitter follower counts are no different.
Like Gingrich, Clarke who stood as a Conservative candidate in the 2010 general election and lost to sitting Labour MP Sadiq Khan, went from very few followers to more than 50,000.
On the surface, that is impressive. However, he has tweeted only 300 plus times, follows only 168 fellow tweeters, and joined Twitter on March 3. Those are stats that ring alarm bells unless he had a hit single out that I missed.
The tweet to follower ratio is always a dead giveaway. Unless you happen to be a celebrity, who is late to joining Twitter, no one gets 50,000 followers like that.
The kinds of people who tend to buy followers fall into two camps. They either don’t know much about social media, are still getting to grips with Twitter and Facebook and how it all works, and you can see that in their behaviour. They don’t tend to share very much; their tweets are low on links.
The other camp comprises those who are under the mistaken impression that you have to have a large follower count, that this is somehow impressive, and of course it is, but only for the shortest periods of time as the logic that the idea of buying Twitter followers is sold on, that by appearing to have more followers you will gain even more, is bogus. Or bollocks as Vincent Haywood put it earlier this year also writing about fake followers and fans.
He highlighted how a lot these fans are being bought from digital sweat shops in Asia where people work for pennies creating fake accounts for Twitter and Facebook.
The market for selling followers is a busy one. You can pick up 50,000 followers for less than £400 although not every company operates in the same way. Some promise they supply customers with genuine Twitter accounts.
One of them, Get Fast Twitter Followers, is based in London and offers a variety of packages – 1,000 followers costs £10 while 20,000 followers costs £150. It told the Metro that that “thousands” of musicians and website owners are using its service:
A spokeswoman said: “If you don’t have many followers on Twitter, then you are just wasting your time there. Everyone realises the importance of social media nowadays and if someone or a company has many followers on Twitter, it gives value to him or his company.”
She disputed the suggestion that what they are doing was morally questionable.
‘We are not offering or selling humans – we are offering followers that are a part of the Twitter marketing strategy,’ she said.
The most obvious thing to say about buying followers is that other than giving you a big number on your Twitter page it does little to raise your online reputation. That only happens by being useful of interesting to other Twitter users, I would argue. You are still only as good as your tweets.
For most of us that means sharing links or other types of content. That’s one of the reasons why so many journalists and bloggers are big on Twitter. They’re good at sharing content. They have insight that they are looking to share.
Besides many of these followers that users buy are created automatically by bots and aren’t real people. They’re never going to retweet you or share your content. They literally are just a number and not a name. They’re value compare to a real user is next to nothing.
But by simply buying followers, or gaming the system, you can fool some. It will boost you Peer Index score for instance giving you added online credibility. That is an issue that needs to be looked at.
It is what Mark Schaefer calls “social proof” and how when establishing online influence, social proof matters … even more than real achievement.
“I’m sure more people know how many Twitter followers I have than any aspect of my career, education, or charitable work. Sad, maybe even disappointing, but true. We see this playing out in many ways:
However, ultimately I’m convinced that as we all become social media savvy this practice of faking our social identity, of gaming the system, becomes an increasingly wasted exercise as our legitimacy on Twitter in the end comes from the community, the real people who follow us and who we interact with. That is as true for people in politics as it is for anyone in media.
It is the same for brands. A recent report highlighting how many brands had thousands of fake followers, mostly bots concluded that brands need to “refocus on quality, not quantity, of digital engagement”.