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Guilty by Association: Why You Should Get Rid of Fake Followers
Posted on March 14th 2014
Having a large Twitter following has been commonly perceived as having influence and notoriety. However, in recent months many people with large followings have been put under a magnifying glass and accused of illegitimately bumping up their numbers. This has led to some bad press for both Twitter and the accused and has opened the door to scrutiny for everyone with a Twitter account. Twitter claims that up to 5 percent of their total users are duplicates, inaccurate or "undesirable". These fake users pose a problem for businesses that rely on advertising dollars, relevant content and a safe commerce environment, as they have been associated with degraded user experience and fraud. However, since inauthentic accounts are a reality on the social web and do not negate the significant value offered by Twitter, having the ability to weed them out allows you to capture a reliable view of your Twitter environment and mitigate the harm these accounts can do.
Much has been said about how fake followers hurt your brand’s credibility, this is especially true for businesses and brands that live or die based on their client’s trust. What does it convey to customers that a business has to fake their way to social media fame? Even celebrities, can face harsh fallout with the media, take Mitt Romney’s scandal in 2012 where he gained more than 100,000 followers in a single day, many of them less than three weeks old. That was two years ago; in 2014 it is not as simple to determine which accounts are fake. Take a peek inside one such Twitter bot factories here. But, ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse either, as there are multiple tools for deduce the fake from the faithful.
Furthermore, it’s not just others finding out about your buying habits that are harmful, faking a huge following also does not necessitate high involvement. Many so-called bots are not intelligent enough to be able to interact with the content you post of provide further value beyond boosting your numbers. This shows through when a suspicious account has 4000 followers but only a Klout score of 30. This also tells legitimate users NOT to follow you!
“Did you pay for your followers with a credit card? If so, a hacker who makes fake followers now has your credit card number.” - Paul Judge
So What are Your Options?
- Manual Moderation: There have been many studies done on the portrait of a fake Twitter account and once armed with this information it is possible to manually review your Twitter followers and distinguish the real from the fakes. The primary problem is that it is very time consuming, expensive and only looks at the surface detection points available to the public.
- SMS/Two-Factor Authentication: These methods can be effective however they are typically too expensive and high-friction for most small to mid-size businesses.
- Social verification in order to start knowing your users better.
Once you know your followers better, you can:
- Remove or flag fake or suspect accounts
- Legitimately determine the effectiveness of your Twitter campaigns
- Make business decisions based on more accurate Twitter information
- Connect and engage with those who have the best chance of increasing sales and brand awareness.
- Mitigate harmful activity that affects user experience and your bottom line.
Just remember: make sure you’re not guilty by association, verify your users, and protect your credibility.