Having a huge following on social media accounts was essentially just a matter of pride. Now, social following equals influence and that means business. As blogging as a profession gains prominence, every one wants to jump on the gravy train and monetize from Day 1. And getting fake followers is the easiest road to showing influence.
Hundreds of authority blog posts advise you to display ‘social proof’ – some kind of evidence that you are popular, and your personal Facebook following doesn’t cut it. Businesses are eager to cash-in on the social media frenzy, and marketing departments may not be equipped to be spending time doing research in hunting down influencers.
As anyone who has worked a few years in a professional environment knows, everyone scrambles for the low hanging fruit when the squeeze is on.
Buying fake Twitter followers has gained a lot of traction at such a time. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Why Am I Writing this Post?
As social media experts and consultants, we get dozens of queries from people wanting to establish a big social presence. People who are new to Twitter want to know how to get thousands of followers. When I joined Twitter, I created a social media strategy and I worked on it every week to build an organic following. Like any good strategy, it was tweaked time and again based on tracking and analyzing the results.
There are bona fide ways of spending money to get a Twitter following. Twitter itself allows Promoted Tweets, and a brand may have a mix of paid versus earned following as part of their strategy. But these accounts will have a different profile.
Identifying Twitter accounts with huge fake followings is tricky. Here are some obvious signs that a Twitter account and social influencer has bought followers or frequents forums and groups that provide huge fake followings.
1. Low Following-Follower Ratio
Well, unless you are Tom Cruise or Amithabh Bachchan, it is unlikely that you follow in tens and hundreds, yet have a following in thousands. A high number of followers is not impossible, but then the person also has other online presence that kind of attests to these high numbers.
A low ‘following’ number and a high ‘follower’ number of a person who is otherwise not in any high-ranking official position or in a public facing job, often signal that the account owner has at one time bought fake followers to boost their numbers.
One other thing that is almost always a good indicator is almost negligible Tweets from this type of account.
2. Blank Twitter Bios
Another indicator of a fake Twitter following is visible when you check the followers of such suspicious accounts. Blank Twitter bios are a red flag, and we have often stressed the importance of having at least a cursory Twitter Bio in place.
Another indicator could be lack of a profile photo. The image above explains this point.
3. Instant Spike in Followers
A lot of tools allow you to analyze your and others’ Twitter account and show the graph of followers of the account over time.
A sharp rise of thousands of followers in a day or week should raise a red flag. I have been active on Twitter for a few years. Getting a completely organic following and followers that do not Unfollow you once you follow them is hard work.
So unless you are slated to win the Booker, Nobel, or are in the run for the American Idol, getting thousands of followers in a matter of days is very suspicious.
4. Twitter Account Analysis
There are number of other signs if you dig deep and look at the Twitter account in detail. However, examining each account through a comb is not an economical option.
For example, you can see in the comparison that a certain Twitter account has a higher percentage of fake followers than real followers.
Whereas, when I evaluated my Twitter account, the number of real followers easily outnumber the figure of fake followers by thousands.
5. Low Audience Follower Distribution
If you are not yet convinced by the evidence from Twitter Audit, try Simply Measured, which gives you a detailed analysis of the followers of the Twitter account you want.
One other obvious sign of fake followers is that these fake accounts have almost negligible following. As you can see in the Audience Follower Distribution image, a major chunk of the followers have only 0 to 100 followers.
Compare this to any other genuine account and you will likely see a distribution like this one. The image below indicates my Twitter Audience distribution that you can check any time on SimplyMeasured.
6. Twitter Follower Quality Score
There are a number of ways you can arrive at the conclusion that the Twitter account holder has engaged in buying Twitter followers. Once again, the Follower Quality Score metric by Twitter Audit shows that the compromised Twitter account has nearly ninety percent of followers with zero quality score.
To again compare an organic Twitter account and see how follower quality score looks like, I have given the same metric for my account.
Why Should You Care?
Given the big workloads and time constraints we all have, it is natural to look for someone with a huge following and be done with it. But digging a few levels deeper can present a totally different picture.
Adopting network approved methods for promotion such as Promoted Tweets (or Pins or Likes) is fine because it shows a commitment and real intent on the part of the brand or influencer that is doing it. But let us all be savvy about fly by night operators out to make a quick buck.
Such subversive tactics undermine the efforts of the majority of honest people who are working hard to build an online presence. I know dozens of bloggers and small business owners who have started with zero followers and are proud to reach 200-250 followers (for example) through months of hard work.
Marketing and PR professionals must keep in mind that any social media promotions will eventually have to result in conversion for their clients. In the absence of measurable ROI, detractors will be quick to blame social media marketing or digital marketing.
Lack of ROI because of fake followers can motivate marketers to move away from using social media as a channel for reaching their target audience and hurt both their clients and genuine account holders.
I hope you will join me in sharing this post with as many people as possible and work toward maintaining the sanctity of our vibrant social media community.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Please share and join the conversation.