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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.

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.

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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.

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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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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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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