Gaming the System
As reported in The Guardian, a new website called Status People purports to unmask these accounts by revealing the percentage of followers that are probably fake or inactive accounts, as opposed to real, active users. Since the number of engaged Twitter followers is an important metric in gauging the success of social media campaigns, as well as the popularity and relevance of a celebrity or brand, getting an accurate count is imperative in order to make intelligent sponsorship bids.
Unfortunately, it is extremely easy to game the follower count through online services such as Fiverr, where vendors provide thousands of Twitter follows for only five dollars. Another source of fake followers is spammers, who tend to follow thousands of accounts just to get curious Twitter users to visit their fake profile and potentially click through to their (usually pornographic) websites.
The Harm of Fake Followers
The harm of these fake Twitter followers is that they amount to a false portrayal of the influence of a Twitter profile, an influence that can be used to lure sponsors into paying premium prices, or even establish credibility for a political figure, all without merit.
As an example, a whopping 67 percent of Barack Obama’s Twitter followers are estimated as fake or inactive accounts, according to a quick check of the tool. This means that over 12.5 million of them are people who do not really exist or never do anything on Twitter, deflating the notion that the account’s audience is comprised of highly engaged individuals.
The Upshot for Social Media Marketers
As the use of this tool spreads, and other social media account audit tools come on the market, social media marketers will be forced to clean out the ranks of fake fans and followers from their clients’ Twitter profiles and Facebook pages. The platforms themselves will probably pay more attention to authenticating accounts and deleting invalid ones, reducing the clutter and spam of fake identities.
Another thing the elimination of fake followers just might do is force brands to focus less on pumped-up popularity numbers and more on providing real content of value to build a smaller, but infinitely more valuable, audience of true believers.
And that would be good news for both brands and their fans.