It’s often been said that life is not a popularity contest, but when it comes to the sometimes wild ‘n’ wacky world of social media, it can sure seem like one. As more and more of us move more and more of our lives online, our reputations on Twitter and Facebook have become just as important—and just as subject to review, ridicule, and respect—as our reputations around the office. But what can you do when your clout is limited by, well, your Klout?
Much like high school or a new career, finding success and popularity online often means falling back on a classic piece of advice: Sometimes, you’ve just gotta fake it ’til you make it. Of course, myriad ways exist to do so online. You can take an outrageous stance, tweet your fingers to the bone, or become King (or Queen) of the Funny Repost. But if even these sound like too much work, you can always gain friends and influence people the new and improved way: by buying them.
Purchasing online friends and followers is a surprisingly common (and surprisingly affordable) practice. With websites around the ‘Net promising thousands of new followers for less than you’d pay for a new tablet, making friends the old-fashioned way seems downright silly. And selling imaginary friends has become big business; some folks have made six figures conjuring followers from the ether.
Your new friends will give you some impressive numbers, but they might not be very lively when compared to living, breathing followers. The majority of these purchased followers will most likely be automated dummy accounts, designed to login, post and basically mimic all the behaviors of a real account so as to avoid arousing suspicion. And accounts that seem popular often become popular simply because real people (who don’t know you’ve purchased the social media equivalent of zombies) start following what they see as a very popular account; they don’t want to miss out on something that everyone else finds so captivating.
Of course, buying your way to online fame and fortune may not be a foolproof plan. If the folks running the show get wise to your plan, you could suddenly discover that all your undead pals have been banished back to the electronic netherworld from which they sprang. So if you do decide to buy a few virtual pals to attract more, it might be a smart idea to lavish some time and attention on building relationships with the real folks who follow you.
Fake It to Make It: Should You Buy Your Way to Social Media Fame?
In today’s digital environment, influence and popularity matter. Whether you’re a startup looking to gain traction, on the hunt for a job, or an entertainer trying to book gigs, it may be tempting to purchase followers. But is risking your reputation worth it? Let’s take a look…
Who’s Faking It?
Some of the most common professions seen with fake followers are comedians, actors, musicians, and politicians.
Startups, bloggers, and job seekers have also been known to purchase followers.
According to John Greathouse, the averages for the top 15 Twitter personalities are 30.4% fake, 40.9% inactive, and 28.7% real and active.
For entertainers, a large social media following signals promise and possibility not just of a good show, but of bringing in more fans and therefore more money for the venues and promoters.
However, celebrities are not always aware that many of their followers are fake.
Studies of social media patterns suggests that bots (hollow accounts) are disproportionately attracted to long-standing Twitter accounts with large followings (like President Obama’s).
Acording to the Fake Follower Check Tool (fakers.statuspeople.com) from StatusPeople (note: StatusPeople state that their results are inexact):
- 71% of Lady Gaga’s more than 39 million followers are fake or inactive.
- 70% of President Obama’s over 34 million followers are fake.
- Only 21% of Shakira’s 21.4 million followers are supposedly real.
- And only 26% of Oprah Winfrey’s 20 million followers were extrapolated as real and active.
In 2012, Mitt Romney was accused of having fake followers, having gained 80% of his 800,000+ (now 1.5 million) within 3 months.
- His following saw a 17% spike in one day: July 21, 2012.
Both YouTube and Twitter have outsized fake followings of 30% and 37% respectively.
EDM musician DJ M1X as admitted to purchasing followers to help book gigs and gain traction.
Many businesses and marketers have also been deemed ‘fakers.’
Some have been accused of paying for reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+, sometimes finding reviewers on Craigslist.
What’s the Price of a Large Following?
In 2012, the average price of 1,000 followers was $18.00.
Mediabistro.com reporterd that of the top 100 Google results for the search phrase “buy Twitter followers,” there were 20 eBay sellers and 58 websites offering various types of fake followers.
According to Wired magazine:
Facebook: On Socialyup.com, you can buy 500 likes for $30 or 20,000 for $699.
Pinterest: Pinfol.com delivers 100 followers for $15 or 5,000 for $95.
Twitter: FanMeNow.com’s packages start at $10 for 1,000 followers and go all the way up to $1,750 for a million.
YouTube: 500views.com delivers 30,000 views for $150. $3,100 will make your video “viral” with a million views.
Instagram: You can pay Buy-More-Fans.com $75 in exchange for 5,000 followers.
Blogs: On CommentHunt.com, you can buy 50 blog comments for $149 or 250 for $399.
Vimeo: JustBuyViews.com will net you 100,000 Vimeo views for $200.
Tumblr: 100 Tumblr followers will cost you $10.99 and 10,000 will cost you $484.64 using SocialNetworkBooster.net.
However, these sites will deliver followers in the form of bots and “hollow” or inactive accounts.
Purchasing “real” followers on sites such as TwitterTechnology.com, Intertwitter.com, and Fiverr.com is also an option.
You can also buy “targeted followers” with software that searches through and finds Twitter users with similar interests and automatically follows them, hoping that they will follow you in return.
- Such as: FastFollwerz.com, FollowerSale.com, and Devumi.com
Why Real Trumps Fake
The bots used to build followings often spam social media websites with fake accounts and junk messages.
Fake or inactive followers won’t add any substantive engagement to your social networking.
They’re even likely to detract from metrics like your Klout score (klout.com) used to measure online influence.
Employers can now weed out the imposters on Twitter using applications such as Statuspeople.com’s Fakers application or SocialBakers.com’s FakeFollowers application.
If your faker number runs under 20%, you tend to be on the safe side.
On TwitterCounter.com, there is the option to enter a name and receive a 3-month view of the follower count. If there are irregular significant jumps, then all signs point to fake.
Fakers Risk Getting Caught and Banned from Social Sites…
Social media sites have started deleting fake accounts from their sites, sometimes even calling out those who’ve purchased followers.
Facebook’s headquarters reported approximately 83 million fake Facebook accounts that they’re cleaning up.
Yelp and Google are increasingly filtering reviews to discourage scammers.
For example, a review may not be posted on a site if it has too many exclamation points.
If a company has too many fake or suspicious reviews, Yelp marks it with a note stating the company was found trying to manipulate their system with fake reviews.
How to Spot a Faker
The average faker has 48,885 followers and follows approximately 1,800 people.
75% of fakers are advertising a website URL in their profile, compared to 31% of overall Twitter users.
The average age of a fake account is about 5 months.
61% of fake profiles are less than 3 months old.
They have a sudden spike in the number of friends, followers, likes, etc.
They have multiple followers without a profile photo.
For Twitter, promotional tweets and the default “egg” avatar are hallmarks of phony accounts.
They have tons of fans, but little to no engagement.
- They don’t seem to talk to anyone, and no one seems to talk to them (you can find this out using Twitter’s Advanced Search).
Content posting is inconsistent and irregular.
Post content is low quality.
They only talk about themselves.
They post the same messages over and over again.
Watch for Facebook accounts with lots of likes but very little discernible user activity.
- A page with tens of thousands of fans but only a few comments and nobody in the “Talking About This” column is a prime suspect.
One study says 97% of fake Facebook profiles identify themselves as female, while only 40% of real users do.
Keep an eye out for Pinterest users with high proportion of followers with no bio or photo.
Beware of generic comments on YouTube. In an analysis, one music clip racked up tens of thousands of views in weeks, but the only comments were variations on “This video is great!”
- The dark side of social media: Buying reviews and followers – bizjournals.com
- Paying For Followers May Cost You A Job – forbes.com
- The Underground Twitter Economy: Buying And Selling Followers – adweek.com
- How To Buy Friends And Influence People: The Going Rate For Fake Followers On Social Media – adweek.com
- Buying Social Media Followers Online: Should You Do It? – topdogsocialmedia.com
- Buying Twitter Followers: The (Cheap) Price of Friendship – wordstream.com
- Buy Friends on Facebook – wired.com