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Home » industry research, News

Tweet cheats: the perils of buying Twitter fans

Submitted by on August 3, 2011 – 8:18 am3 Comments

It’s particularly bad news these days when you find yourself at the center of a Twitter malfeasance story that’s got everyone in the Washington and tech press corps buzzing. The big question this morning facing the Newt Gingrich camp is: did he pad his Twitter following by paying for a bunch of spambots and other dubious characters?

The verdict is still out. The story first broke in Gawker and has since been corroborated by Twitter follower validity pros at PeekYou. According to PeekYou, just 8% of Gingrich’s Twitter followers are actual people. That sounds scandalously bad until you get the definition of what PeekYou regards as actual people [our words]. The 92%, it explains, could be businesses or anonymous Twitter accounts, not necessarily hundreds of thousands of for-hire robo supporters. In other words, big business and shadowy entities and a whole lot of mindless beings are following Gingrich. And the news there is…?

What is more interesting (though it’s never clearly explained how it directly relates to its Gingrich Twitter analysis) is PeekYou’s point about the thriving market for mercenary Twitter followers. They say you can easily buy Twitter followers on eBay or sign up to any one of these rogue get-fans-fast services that advertise all over the Net.

This isn’t new of course to anyone who’s been tasked with building and maintaining a social network following for a brand or organization. There are all kinds of ways to game the system and pad your numbers for clients who measure the success of their social media investment in followers and fans, and little else.

We’ve warned a few times here on SMI about the perils of the “follower fallacy” – i.e., taking too much stock in your follower numbers. Whether it be a figure or a brand, influence is not measured in how many people follow you. And now, as the Gingrich camp is learning, the fallout from buying Tweet lurve is never worth the headache.

Still, it happens. A lot. We’d seen iVillage and McDonald’s McCafe Coffee at one point following the self-described “rope slut” @GenevaN whose online handle reads, “One woman, several balls, and a team of horny players…” You get the idea. It’s a bad idea.

Now it appears Gingrich will be dogged by questions about the authenticity of his Twitter fan base. If it serves a lesson about the perils of padding your Twitter followers with meaningless souls than the campaign will actually have accomplished something. Now that’s news.


  • Sebastian Cork says:

    I believe that an organic follower base is the best. It’ll never let you down. I would rather have a lower number of people who have specifically chosen to follow me than a huge quantity of people who are passively along for the ride.

  • I’m with Sebastian on this one. What good do numbers do for anyone? If your followers are all spammers and the like, you’ll never influence them in any way. What’s the point?

  • [...] of the dodgy tricks of those who get caught up in the “follower fallacy” – i.e., buying popularity. We’ve also pointed out that popularity does not equate to influence in the discerning world [...]

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