Yesterday I was writing a post and wanted to quote a guy that I knew through Twitter. I went to his site and saw that in the month or two since I’d visited his page, his Twitter following had grown by a factor of five. Since I had just found StatusPeople’s Faker tool, I queried his handle and it showed almost precisely what I had observed, 80% spam and inactive accounts (note that StatusPeople say that accuracy of this tool is not as sharp for such large accounts).
Politicians get a pass for fake Twitter followers (and this will soon spill over I’m sure into fake Facebook fans, too). They’re not touting their expertise in social media, though. So while it’s a fun diversion from talking about substantive political issues, fake Twitter followers aren’t a reason that people choose to vote for or against a candidate. Besides, voting is anonymous.
Here’s the problem that I encountered: this guy has some great insights and does a pretty phenomenal job of engaging people on all of his social platforms. But I can never vouch for anything that he does again. Even though I admire some of his work, I know that he’s staking his reputation on a lie.
If you’ve read Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It! you’ve read about how he spent all of his free time connecting with people on Twitter to build up a following that stands at 936,000 followers. Take a look at how StatusPeople’s tool characterizes the make-up of his Twitter account versus Anderson Cooper’s (this may seem random but I promise to connect the dots):
The point being that Gary Vaynerchuk developed a Twitter following by working harder than anyone, and has an effective Twitter following comparable to many celebrities (Note that StatusPeople’s tool measures a sample of 500 followers with a preference for newer accounts – specific numbers are not representative of the entire account). Yet, if Gary took any shortcuts could he write books, give talks, start a media company, and eventually buy the Jets? Probably not. And by the way, yesterday Google purchased Wildfire Interactive for $250 million dollars – one of the investors in Wildfire was Gary Vaynerchuk.
Credibility matters. And while the mechanism and benefit of buying Twitter followers is fairly neutral, the harm to a person’s reputation is irreparable. Particularly if you’re trying to speak with any authority about social media. If you want to get scale, you have to hustle like Gary Vaynerchuk. If you want to take a shortcut, you have to consider that you’re going all in with your reputation and hope you don’t get caught.
***Post-script – I did a better in my last post of pointing out that this is only a sampling of 500 followers with an affinity towards newer followers – the entire methodology is described here: http://fakers.statuspeople.com/Fakers/FindOutMore/ - so these percentages are only accurate for the sample and aren’t representative of the whole. Because we don’t know the sampling method you have to assume a large sampling error. Thanks to commenters for pointing this out!