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Opinion Editorials

What you should know about the fake Twitter followers debacle

As the public learns that Obama and Romney’s Twitter follower count is full of fake accounts, the sentiment reveals that consumers want their leaders, and even service providers to have a clean Twitter record that can be trusted.

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fake twitter accounts

Headlines read “Obama and Romney guilty of fake Twitter followers.”

You’ve heard and read the headlines about the sins of buying fake Twitter followers, and how top politicians like President Obama and Governor Romney have trumped up their Twitter follower counts by buying fake followers in bulk. The talking heads are using it to point out how truly social many people are (or are not), and screaming that there have been injustices committed here, as people see large follower counts and believe that individual or brand to be more relevant and more followed than they really are.

So what? Who cares? Were you really going to vote for a candidate because they were good at Twitter? Then I’m not talking to you anyway, move along.

What does matter is that with this new “Fake Follower Check” by StatusPeople, anyone can verify what percentage of fake, inactive, and good followers they have, which is the basis of the recent outcry against users with a high percentage of fake followers, which typically indicates that user has purchased their followers, and have not had legitimate people follow their account, thus tricking people into thinking they are more influential than they really are.

The caveat to using the Fake Follower Check is that you should understand that the results are only a sample of a portion of a user’s followers, with an extrapolation of relative percentages across the entire data sample (in other words, it doesn’t look at every single follower, it takes an average). Most experts are buying into the tool as relatively accurate.

Below, we have done our own sampling, including all of our own personal and business Twitter accounts, as well as many social media gurus, celebrities, and a select few brands for comparison sake. The following is listed in order of the percentage of fake followers from the cleanest account to the dirtiest (my words, not StatusPeoples’):

fake twitter accounts

Reading the data

Since the world is in the mood to rely on a sample, so shall we. It is interesting to note that the only two private accounts in the above list are my own, and our CEO’s account – the only two 0% fake accounts we came across (although, I’ll be honest, our research only included 50 accounts). I have personally been chastised for having a private account (which I have due to a stalker, but let’s not get derailed here), but maybe the fact that I manually approve, and more importantly, ignore follower requests is a way to keep my account relatively “clean.” I believe more people will go private as the years go on, in an effort to take control of their account.

Another way to keep fake followers at bay is to regularly groom your Twitter account so that you are really only interacting with real, active users, by using ManageFlitter which lets you unfollow inactive users, people not following you back, and even people with no profile picture (a decent indicator that it is fake or inactive).

It is interesting that Facebook, YouTube, Klout, and even Twitter itself have many, many fake followers. That is not always the case with brands in general, so it caught our attention that social networks should be the experts in social networking, but alas, they have gotten caught up in the follower count mania just as their users have – not the best example to set. Innocent enough, but still not exactly ivory tower material.

From the above data, it should be noted that most of the accounts that have high counts of inactive users have been on Twitter for many years, as opposed to new users, and many of their original followers have fallen away. There are likely two camps when it comes to people with high levels of inactive followers: those having to rest on their laurels of old followers due to early Twitter popularity that has fizzled, and those who used to be suggested users to new accounts when Twitter promoted individuals more obviously than they do now. Guy Kawasaki is a great example of the later.

We were fascinated that StatusPeople had a massively high percentage of fake followers, but as they explain on their blog, someone punked them buy buying them 20,000 followers, which has actually prompted the company to make a followup tool that helps remove fake followers from your Twitter account, in the event that you, someone on your staff, or an anonymous enemy buys fake followers for your account.

The takeaway

Yes, people buy fake Twitter followers, especially people whose job is to be liked and trusted (ahem, politicians), but many people used to be suggested users that were automatically followed by new Twitter accounts that were either fake to begin with or have gone dormant. As for you, keep a clean account in the event someone digs around for your name, particularly clients. This “trick” of finding how “clean” your account is is not a techie tool, and we suspect that with the rise of Klout and other social verification tools, these numbers might actually matter as they go mainstream, so use a tool like ManageFlitter to stay above board.

What you really need to know is that the public is finally catching on to the concept that quantity may not always trump quality, even in social media follower counts, and the visceral reaction to the fake followers on Romney and Obama’s trumped up follower counts should show you the common sentiment on the topic. Keep it clean, folks.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. MonicaMo

    August 28, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Very cool!  Good to know…I’ve always wondered if there was a way to track this type of activity.

  2. MonicaMo

    August 28, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Very cool!  Good to know…I’ve always wondered if there was a way to track this type of activity.

  3. beachtowne

    August 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

    As someone who has been on Twitter for 3 years or more, it seems that the original ethos of Twitter (follow back) has been lost. We now see a large majority of Twitter users with as few as 1000 followers going back and unfollowing a large percent of the accounts that they follow.They are emulating the “celebrities” they see do it.
     
    Are we now expecting accounts with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of followers to qualify their followers, and spend time deleting those who aren’t “up to snuff”?  And what constitiutes value? Has it occurred to anyone that some people’s activity on twitter may consist of merely checking their time line to see what Guy Kawasaki, Mariah Cary and Mitt Romney’s accounts are tweeting today?
     
    As for the assumption that eggs = fake, I’d bet that 15% of the people on twitter wouldn’t know how to post an avatar if you offered to pay them to do so.
     
    Also- I’m wondering…
    If your headline is “Headlines read Obama and Romney guilty of fake Twitter followers”, why not include those two accounts in the 50 you reviewed?
     

  4. JoeHefferon

    August 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Lani,
    Very interesting article. I’m glad the public is finally catching on to celebs & business people who stroke their egos with fake followers. Full disclosure; when I was brand new I bought some to begin to establish a presence and not realizing they would be inactive. I since regret it and would never do it again. Thanks for making the time to put this report together. All the best…

  5. DonaldDobbie

    October 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Hi Lani,
     
    I’m happy that people are finally coming to their senses with regard to “fake followers”. For the people that need to keep their Twitter account but dump the fakes there is a great tool to do it with https://www.twitblock.org Unfortunately, it’s still a manual process and could take several hours to remove a few thousand fake followers(one click at a time). The alternative is; pay someone to remove them for you like with this Fiverr gig https://5rr.biz/s/3mmgr9 Either way, in my opinion there is a limited amount of time for people to SAVE THEMSELVES from massive public embarrassment (being exposed as a fraud in front of ALL of their REAL followers). The more that products like Status People catch on, the more people will be caught looking foolish.
     
    Thank you for writing this article.
    All the best,
    Don

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Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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