A Confession: I Bought 50,000 Twitter Followers

Chris Dessi
Chris Dessi CEO, Author, Television Commentator , Silverback Social

Posted on October 22nd 2013

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.

Chris Dessi

Chris Dessi

CEO, Author, Television Commentator , Silverback Social

An award winning digital thinker, author, television & radio commentator, public speaker and educator, Chris Dessi is the CEO and Founder of Silverback Social. Silverback is the world's leading social media agency, enables top brands and advertisers, to connect with more than a billion customers through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Youtube, and more.

Throughout his career in London and New York, Chris has worked with a wide array of businesses ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, as well as notable personalities, products and brands.

Chris’ savvy marketing acumen combined with his passion for psychology, sociology and cultural studies, all reside at the fulcrum of his unique manifesto; he believes that social media is much more of a spiritual awakening rather than a technological one. This revolutionary perspective has propelled his personality into the national media landscape. In addition to being a regular social media expert contributor on Fox Business' Shappard Smith Show, CNBC, Fox Evening News, Good Day New York, WPIX, and Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Chris has appeared on Inside Edition, The Steve Adubato Show, One to One, and has participated in radio segments on WOR’s The John Gambling Show in Manhattan, and WBAL’s Marybeth Marsden show in Baltimore.

Chris applied his fresh and innovative outlook on social media to the pages of his first book, “Your World is Exploding: How Social Media is Changing Everything and How You Need to Change With It,” which shot to #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in its first two weeks of publication.

As an educator, Chris recognizes that the manner in which we, as a culture, aggregate and disseminate information has changed, and he is devoted to sharing his effective techniques for mastering engagement in social media to the world. Chris has lectured on social media to sales executives of Fortune 200 companies and he consistently travels the country coaching college students how to leverage social media to benefit their personal brand message and their career.

In 2012, Chris was selected by the Business Council of Westchester’s 40 Under 40 for exemplifying leadership, foresight and a vision for the future of Westchester County, where he currently resides with his wife and two daughters.

Consistent with the passion he holds for his professional career is the devotion he has to his family. Having never been a runner, Chris trained to run the New York City Marathon last year to raise money for the ALS Association after his father was diagnosed with the disease. When the Marathon was cancelled after Sandy hit, Chris took it upon himself to run his own 26.2 mile marathon route in Westchester to honor his father.

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Comments

belindasummers
Posted on October 23rd 2013 at 3:01AM

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.

Chris Dessi
Posted on October 23rd 2013 at 7:31PM

Belinda,

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

Best,

Chris 

Vivek Pereira
Posted on October 23rd 2013 at 6:53AM

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.

 

Chris Dessi
Posted on October 23rd 2013 at 7:30PM

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

cision
Posted on October 23rd 2013 at 10:00PM

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
Posted on October 25th 2013 at 12:24PM

Thank you Lisa! 

Marvel Slots
Posted on November 18th 2013 at 6:15AM

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.

Lesley21
Posted on January 6th 2014 at 2:21PM

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