Phony Twitter accounts make up more of a presence online than most think. According to Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, the black market for phony Twitter accounts could be up to $360 million a year.
This black market purchasing of followers for money takes place on websites such as eBay and others (we prefer not to promote) daily. Why do people buy fake followers, you might ask? As a brand, the lack of results for all of your hard work on a social campaign can be frustrating.
Fake Followers Erode Credibility
Some believe if you buy a few fake followers then other real users will notice your brand due to the perceived increased importance that you have over other accounts for having such a large number of followers and thus will follow you. Simply stated, the larger the number of followers an account has the more likely people are to pay attention to it. The problem is these fake followers haven’t been gained organically at all, they don’t create engagement, and they don’t do your brand any good when it comes to needing a community to support it.
These phony accounts are called follower-bots and are created to act as if they are a real person — spouting off tweets, following other users, and retweeting content. You’ve probably seen the more obvious follower-bots follow you on Twitter, but the people creating them are getting more and more advanced. These days, spotting a follower-bot can be nearly impossible. They even steal information from real accounts and duplicate it numerous times over to make them look real.
Check out the example below that shows how a follower-bot pulled info from a real account to make three fake ones. (Imagine an identity thief with your Twitter account.)
Not only are creators getting better at making fake accounts, they’re making the purchase of these followers cheaper. The average price for purchasing followers has declined from $18 per 1,000 followers in 2012 to $11.18 per 1,000 followers. That means for $559, you could have 50,000 Twitter followers tomorrow.
You’re feeling the temptation, aren’t you?
You’re not alone. Celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian have even been accused of buying a following. A month ago it was announced that Bieber reached 40 million followers. But soon a more accurate statistic surfaced. After checking his account, it was estimated that:
So … more like 14 million Beliebers exist. (You should still be worried for humanity.)
We here at Spiral16 advise growing your followers organically. Earning true brand advocates and loyal followers should always be a goal because there is no substitute for an engaged, active following of ACTUAL PEOPLE. The following infographic from Judith Ohikuare displays the underground world of fake-follower creation and has a lot of interesting points. Click on the image for a larger version: