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A Confession: I Bought 50,000 Twitter Followers

ImageA Confession: Last year, on a whim and a prayer I purchased 50,000 Twitter followers. Three months later they were all gone, along with my self respect as a so called “social media expert.” I knew I was cheating, but I did it anyway. As I look back on it I cringe, but I can also laugh.

The guilt I’ve felt for doing something so silly as buying the false admiration of false people in a falsely human ecosystem could very well have me locked into months of heavy psychotherapy. Oh, the hypocrisy! I’ve blogged about how you should never under any circumstances purchase followers for yourself or your brand. I’ve posted comments on Linkedin, tweeted advice and solicited feedback here on Socialmediatoday.

Never! I declared. But I did it anyway. Why?

Here’s why:

I was desperate. This time last year I sat at my computer frustrated. I had just launched Silverback Social, but I hadn’t closed one piece of business yet. I was in the midst of making some deals happen, but I was r-e-a-l-l-y concerned. A few months had passed and I was still in a legal battle with my former business partner, I had no income and was borrowing money from my in-laws and parents to pay my mortgage. Legally, I wasn’t really supposed to close any business or I would be in danger of being sued. So I decided to reach out to my network and offer my services for free. This first step was the smartest thing I could have done at the time. It got me networking, servicing and interacting with potential clients. I was creating the foundation of what would later become the Silverback Social process that has catapulted us to success. I met with authors, professional athletes, and news anchors, offering all of them my expertise in social media for free. All I asked in return was access to their burgeoning network. I thought that by gaining introduction through them and the power of word of mouth I would eventually win business. I was right, it did.

One of my clients had written a book and wanted more Twitter followers. We discussed this at length and agreed that I would purchase 50,000 followers on her behalf to “pad” her Twitter following. While I didn’t initially condone it, I did (and still do for that matter) think there is a time and a place to purchase attention via social media. Media buys that are targeted can generate some fantastic traction and highly engaged followers, but this was different. My client had found an article in the NY times titled "Twitter Followers for Sale" regarding these services, and requested that I purchase the followers on her behalf, so I did. Who was I to judge? We joked about how most of the great American fortunes were starting with some illicit dealings at first. A few weeks later, the social media steroids took hold. Her Twitter following swelled to a whopping 50,000! I was enamored. It was so easy, and so cheap. I was on the fence, but one evening decided to pull the trigger. Maybe if I had more followers I would get more speaking engagements and a book deal?

So I did it.

Here’s what happened:

Boom, overnight my followers exploded to over 50,000. There was no turning back. I was thrilled, scared and a little high on the idea of having that many people at my disposal. I could direct them anywhere, right? Wrong.  As the ensuing months unfolded it became apparent that the $350 we had spent for our followers was a huge waste of time, effort and face.

A few short weeks later, people began to dissipate, in heaping chunks of delicious followers. Falling off my follow list like an avalanche of lies and broken promises. It sucked. Really sucked. I was finally closing business, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel with Silverback, but I felt ashamed. I was a cheater and a liar. I recall being asked by another client if I felt she should buy followers and I raged against anyone who did so. What kind of self-loathing social media monster was I turning into? A guilty conscience needs no accuser.

Oy.

Like the deflated pectorals of a steroid loser who stops the cycle of Dianabol, after three months we were both deflated. The followers were largely from the Philippines, or fake. My followers fell to just over 8,000, a few hundred higher than when I started the three-month journey, back to the “real followers.” Since then my following has steadily risen to just over 10,000.

What did I learn?

Moral of the story? This is a federal offense for someone in my line of work, but buying some Twitter followers didn’t erase my master’s degree, or the 13 years of experience I have in digital marketing; it just proved that I can be a knucklehead. There is no excuse for cutting corners, no rationale for cheating and no reward for lying.  I was vulnerable and caved in to pressure to overperform. I’m not proud, but I hope you read this and learn from it.

You’re wasting your time, money and energy if you buy Twitter followers. Phew.

Happy tweeting.

Join The Conversation

  • Jan 6 Posted 1 year ago Lesley21

    I also tried to buy twitter followers, but I didn't get such a poor results, all of the followers are still there.

  • Nov 18 Posted 1 year ago Marvel Slots

    very true, no cheating! I learnt my lesson too, only hard work and honest marketing will get you real results. 

    No use if you have 1M follwers if they are all bots and fake accounts.

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 25 Posted 1 year ago Chris Dessi

    Thank you Lisa! 

  • cision's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 1 year ago cision

    An honest post and a great lesson for all of us. I've always wondered the outcome of buying followers, so it's interesting to hear that they fall off. And with tools like StatusPeople (which allows people to scan handles to see if they have fake followers), hopefully this fad will fall off! 

    Glad to hear your business is successful! A happy ending all around :)
    Best,
    Lisa

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 1 year ago Chris Dessi

    Belinda,

    Thanks for your comment here - you're right, I did learn my lesson.  What a knucklehead. :-) 

    Best,

    Chris 

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 1 year ago Chris Dessi

    Thank you for your kind words Vivek. I wish you and you novel "Indians in Pakistan" all the best. 

  • Vivek Pereira's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 1 year ago Vivek Pereira

    Chris, all of us have skeletons in our cupboards. The online world can be cruel and lonely – just like the real world outside. We often regret our actions and it is quite brave of you to own up to a moment of weakness. Very often circumstances beyond our control cause us to behave irrationally or uncharacteristically if only for a brief span of time – but there’s no telling what may happen because of that momentary lapse. Each one of us is constantly fighting off the demons in both the offline and online worlds. I have just started promoting my novel “Indians in Pakistan,” an action thriller on terrorism. One of my friends recommended that I should buy Facebook Likes and referred me to someone who could help me out with it. Although the sum was small and the temptation great, I decided against it for ethical reasons. Today I may have less than 100 Likes on FB but I’m proud that none of them have been bought.

     

  • belindasummers's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 1 year ago belindasummers

    Well, I’m glad you learned your lesson.

    Having a large amount of followers alone may widen your social presence but you also have to make efforts to make those followers engage your posts. But alas, those followers are not genuine; therefore they’ll just scroll through your tweets without even a glance. It’s better to have a hundred legitimate and active Twitter followers than to have a million ghost ones :)

    Thanks for sharing your honest experience, Chris.

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