Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do You Have Fake Twitter Followers? Clues to Aid Your Investigation!

I am going to get a bit off subject this week. Along with my knack for writing engaging content (~cough~) I have a set of ethical guidelines and a spoonful of good ole' sincerity that I use when trying to connect with my readers, customers, and social media fans. I'm not sure where this general concern for the human condition has disappeared to lately, but I came across some blatant "abuse" on Twitter that startled me. I AM DISGUSTED BY IT. I was instantly compelled to take a break from posting about tiki culture, sound design, or music in general so I could share my concerns with my readers (many of whom are fellow Tweeters). 

I was recently asked by a company to assist with the implementation of their social media. I make no claims as a guru of web culture or as a master of social marketing at this point in my career! I just wanted to help this company and develop my skills along the way. The company I offered the assistance to already had a solid Facebook business page and a Twitter account among other things. 

When I reviewed the company's Twitter account I noticed some odd things when I was checking out the followers. Look at the image below and see if you notice anything awkward:


At first glance, nothing appears odd. This is what most Twitter "followers" look like. Profile descriptions consist of short and sweet blurbs that make attempts at professionalism, humor, and kindness all in one fell swoop in a freeze-frame of 160 characters. The images all look like regular people as well...the same thing you would see on Facebook. Now look at the screenshot of these "Followers" :


Notice anything out of the ordinary? Several of the brief descriptions are identical with separate images! Are we being fooled by Twitter users or even worse...web-robots? Are companies beefing up the number of followers they have by adding "fake" customers or followers? We saw this in a nationwide news story this political season with the revelation that 92% of Newt Gingrich's followers on Twitter were phony. Now, the company I am working for was most certainly a victim of some sort of spam-bot or "Twitter-follower" genie. I'm 100% sure they did not intend for their Twitter page to be a falsification of their business status and image. Now, the question lies: Do I think that some less-than-stellar companies are using this method to gain a wider following and increase their audience? I am positive! They are the new real-estate brokers of this decade! I imagine we all have a huge bursting bubble of social media to look forward to thanks to these people! Below are more examples of trickery that I noticed:

Notice that there is no interaction on this user's part. Fake? Ummm...yes.

Over 750 followers on this company's Twitter account had absolutely NO TWEETS! These individual profiles must not be winning popularity contests either because they all had somewhere in the range of 2 - 12 followers. 

The point of Twitter and other similar social platforms is to get your message across and spread the word. Somebody likes what you post and shares it with their friends. These people aren't intending to share anything! What's even more odd is that the number of people each fake Twitter profile followed ranged from 80 - 92 every time. It's my belief that even more personal businesses, small businesses, large companies, and even corporations have been targeted by this same sweep. The goal is obviously to get people to follow them back and in turn increasing the number of followers they have. It leads me to believe that all of these accounts are linked to one account and in turn beef up that one account with each follow. Definitely an ethical and privacy concern here!

The same description and picture with a different name? Seriously?!!?

Now, I am not against a company using tactics. I'm not against subtle nuances or gestures that give a company a competitive edge. Consumers have the right to decide what advertising they succumb to; the scope of advertising as a business depends on that very thing. I'm sure that this practice is common knowledge amongst the industry which is a huge reason I'm turned off by it. What I am suggesting is that individuals and businesses that utilize these social tools distinguish themselves ethically by noticing when these sorts of things happen and by following through and doing something about them! Pay attention to the people you are conducting business with and verify that they have ethical standards. You could be the one getting screwed! Pay attention to who your customers are and give them credit. They are NOT stupid. Just as YOU wouldn't watch a movie that seemed to have an awkward storyline and just didn't make sense, your customers will see your company as illegitimate or untrustworthy in the long run. Consumers are smart! It will turn them off. Trust me. In these times of misdirected honesty and falsified trust consumers want nothing more than to deal with a truthful business.

Take the time to verify your customers on your social media accounts. Make sure they are real. The true gem of social media is the interaction! You will never get there with a bunch of clones that claim to be a "devoted bacon enthusiast" or a "typical food ninja." Are you catching my drift?

Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of all these followers is to individually block them or report them for spam. If you have a whole boatload then it's going to take some time for sure. After you have reported or blocked all the fake followers click on your account settings and turn Tweet Privacy ("Protect My Tweets") to on. You will be asked to enter your password to make the changes to your account. This is COOL TO DO. I promise. Then exit out of settings, go back into settings and turn off your Tweet Privacy. When you visit your home page again you will notice that the number of followers have decreased and the unwanted followers are no longer there. Now you can start legitimately building a loyal and tangible base of Twitter-ees to follow you!

There is always going to be that bad apple: the guy that works diligently to create a virus so they can see the downfall of Apple, the internet hackers who use what could be skills to steal identities and secure information, the traitors that release government secrets on Wiki-Leaks or elsewhere, and so on. Chances are that if one or two of these exist on your profile then it just could be new users who haven't gotten the hang of it. You'll know the bad apples when you see them. Be vigilant with your accounts. They define you or your company. Distinguish yourself, your company, your idea or whatever by simply getting back to the basics and using common sense. If they aren't your friend or haven't proved themselves to be legitimate then DO NOT give them the benefit of becoming a part of your network!

Has this happened to you or someone you know? Do you not agree with my take on using fake followers? Have any ideas or helpful advice based on experience? Please comment below!! Share this article with friends and family. Encourage them to be responsible in their business methods! They will thank you in the long run!

5 comments:

  1. There are a good number of these fake followers, which I assume are bots tracking many Twitter accts. I always block them, because many of them are of a pornographic nature. Others are just plain weird and they don't interact with anyone, so what's the point?

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  2. there is a next problem , ANYONE can buy you fake followers behind your back without a password. so when you are trying to have a good account with real twitterfriends , suddenly you might see an increase of 20 000 or more because somebody just bougth it for you without your permission. the next situation is that your account looks fake and people can talk about you as a big faker because of your fake followers, and that all while you are trying to stay away from the fake followers. obviously these fake followers are bought for you to put you in a bad light. yes it happens and it can happen to anyone. i am shocked to see twitter is so easy to enter with this kind of actions. you can destroy somebody's good name , by just get them 100 k of fake followers and make em look bad.

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  3. The only way you could have fake followers is if you went ahead and bought them yourslef... so I don't see the point of this tool. But I guess it is good to make us realize how much fake followers celebrities have! Thanks for the great article.

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