Fake Twitter followers – a closer look
Everyone who works in digital communications, and knows what they are talking about, will understand that building a legitimate social media following is challenging, and takes time, resources, and knowhow. Whether it be for a musician, NGO, or a brand, there is no getting around the fact that a meaningful social media following has to be earned. This means hours of strategizing, content shaping, and expert delivery.
Or, you can just fake it…
Thanks to Facebook ads, building an impressive audience on Zuckerberg’s platform is relatively easy. When it comes to Twitter, however, it is a lot trickier. Twitter ads are not as pliable and budget friendly as Facebook’s, which means that for most local brands, they are not an option. But obviously everyone wants a decent Twitter following, and a cohesive social media strategy from a good agency can be expensive, relative to a small-to-medium sized company’s marketing budget. As a result, there is an significant black market for fake Twitter accounts, which according to Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, could generate up to $360 million a year.
In a nutshell, these companies create millions of fake Twitter users and sell them to pretty much anyone who wants a nice injection of followers. 1000 Twitter followers will cost you about R120 on the black market, and they are delivered instantly. Of course, they are not worth anything, intrinsically, but there is perceived value in the fact that a Twitter account with 50,000 followers is likely to be taken a lot more seriously than one with 200 followers.
We could argue back and forth about whether or not there is any actual value in having a massive Twitter-bot following or not, but the bottom line is that creating audiences of this nature is not our business. We are in the business of building dedicated, meaningful online communities for the brands and companies we represent.
US based digital research agency, Spiral 16, has in conjunction with Status People, put together a handy infographic which gives some valuable insight into the black market industry for Twitter accounts. According to their research, over half of US president Barack Obama’s Twitter following is fake, while 12% global mega-brand Coca Cola’s following is also not real.