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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

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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Opinion Editorials

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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Reuters checks facebook

So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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