- This Week
For $26, I gained 2,500 followers -- and you can, too! Adventures in being fake popular on Twitter
01.08.13 - 6:07 pm | Caitlin Donohue |
Donohue's Twitter profile, with newly perky follower count thanks to a $26 investment in fake relevance
When digital marketers Advocate Media ran a check on our national elected representatives, it found that members of US Congress had an average of 38 percent fake followers. Senators had an average of 42 percent fake and inactive accounts following them. When social media analysts PeekYou examined the honorable Newt Gingrich's Twitter account during his not-yet-failed presidential campaign, it uncovered that no less than 92 percent of his followers were figment.
Although as Zach Moffat, the Romney campaign's digital director, pointed out while denying claims he had bought bots, if Twitter followers were everything, we'd have been looking at a President Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber presidential win in 2012. To be fair, Gaga and Beebs never asked us to vote for them, so his logic is slightly off.
The major fallacy in all this, of course, is that these followers are not real people. Regardless of how witty my live tweeting of family members' peccadillos over the holidays would turn out, the bots would never retweet me. Romney's and Obama's bots did not turn out for their rallies or cast ballots. Sure, they make your profile page look nice, but do fake followers really lead to more real-life influence?
"I can say that from my experience, that is 100 percent correct," wrote the CEO of FanMeNow.com, who identified themself as A. Delgado. FanMeNow, Delgado told me, is Brooklyn-based and employs three full-time workers and five independent IT contractors. "I have seen first hand, and also received testimonials from clients, that right after their boost, they began receiving many real followers. The only correlation I can make is their new social presence being the cause for this drastic change."
"I do know that when I'm looking for a song on YouTube and there are several videos with the song title in it, I pick the one with the most views," wrote Prescott in response to the same question. "I'm assuming the majority of people out there do the same — or maybe I'm just an odd ball?"
Not everyone agrees. Jeremy Scott created video marketing firm Viral Orchard, which employs all sorts of techniques to grow the popularity of online brands among meat puppet Internet users. Scott advises clients away from buying fake views and followers.
"The savvy brands know there's long-term value in more than just a simple view," he explained. "The engaged viewer shares the content, discusses it, and comes back for more. Bought views don't translate into comments, likes, or shares the way real views do. And at the end of the day, if all you can really say about your video is that it had a lot of views and not much else, then I don't see a lot of value in that."
Scott insists that the fake followers are only good for the initial boost that your profile gets. But to his way of thinking, you're better off just buying a sponsored ad slot on social networking sites, which can target your content towards viewers who are picking up what you're putting down, as it were.
Plus, there's the potential for discovery when you buy fake followers. Run a Twitter handle through StatusPeople's search engine (fakers.statuspeople.com) and you'll see in seconds that around 85 percent of my flock hails from bot land.
Awareness about faking it on the 'Net is growing. At the end of last month, YouTube removed more than 2 billion views from major label recording artists. Will.i.am, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Chris Brown, Avril Lavigne, and Michael Jackson's page were all docked, YouTube claiming that the views had been arriving at through artficial means. Websites like Business Insider have published lists of the top business fakers that include Google (47 percent fake), YouTube (33 percent), Twitter (47 percent), and Twitter Español (61 percent.)