False Friends

It came to light during the Republican presidential nomination process that some 92% of Newt Gingrich’s 1.3 million Twitter followers were fake. This wholly unstartling development was established by the party-poopers at PeekAnalytics, who crunched the numbers in a report delightfully entitled Follower Gate. Peek ran their spidering software over Newt’s followers and looked at characteristics like activity, the originality of user names, retweets and first tweets and concluded, charitably, that Newt Gingrich was something other than popular.

Since then it’s come to pass that 31% of Barack Obama’s approximately 19 million followers are computer-generated accounts or spam, strongly outnumbering the 13% of Mitt Romney’s meagre 900 000 fans who turned out to be robots. It’s little wonder that the president was returned for a second term in view of his overwhelming popularity among even the non-existent.

Newt and the president and the governor, or rather their political action friends, bought most of their followers from one or more of a growing number of “marketing” organizations specializing in social media. And you can too.

Fourteen? Or Fourteen Billion?
As FanMeNow, one such distinguished organization, points out, “Would you rather do business with a company with 14 followers, or 18,000?” If your small business or personal brand is reliant on 14 loyal friends who actually care what you have to say, how pathetic is that? If you can’t have 18,000 fictional followers it’s best to stay off Twitter altogether and let people assume that you’re just aloof.

FanMeNow can burst your brand into the era of social media for as little as $10 for 1000 or as much as $1750 for a million followers. For less than it would cost you to send your 14 followers personalised thank you baskets, you can be more popular than Mitt Romney. In fact, for only $12 250 000 you can have a following that exceeds the population of planet earth. All hanging on your every tweet.

Newt Gingrich was caught out when his fan-base shot up by 100,000 followers quite literally overnight, so unless an extra thousand followers wouldn’t look suspicious you might want to consider gaining followers the old-fashioned way and if 1000 new followers wouldn’t look suspicious, what’s the point in buying followers?

The old-fashioned way, if any social media practices can be regarded as old-fashioned, is to tweet well and often, but not one or the other, it has to be both:


“About to go on stage to play bass for BB King. First 100 retweets meet me backstage!”

Not so good:

“Had Toasty-Os for breakfast.”

“Correction, Cheerios.”

It’s commonly understood that another good practice is to always follow back but how true is that? Most of us have been followed, probably more often than not, by spam accounts. Following fake accounts won’t result in increased popularity in the Twittersphere and will in all likelihood result in diminished credibility among your existing followers when Twitter points out that they follow someone who also follows @freenudes.

Will you be my friend?
Probably best practice is to not try to outsmart the Twittersphere. You’ll get found out and when you do it’ll cost a lot more in credibility than you could ever have hoped to gain for your investment or time spent trying to charm people who don’t care what you have to say.

Oh, and don’t forget to follow me.

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Posted in: Americas, Internet, Politics, USA

About the Author:

Phillip is a Canadian currently serving the Paris portion of a European exile in the sixth arrondissement and writing largely for a technical audience.
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