Faking it on Social Media: What are the Costs?

By: Guest | September 18, 2012 | 


Today’s guest post is by Stacey Acevero

It may be something we never detect or notice while we’re on Twitter – but it’s very prevalent: Fake followers.

As communications professionals, we try to place emphasis on the quality of our networks, rather than the quantity, but what is it about those follower numbers that makes us feel so good?

Be wary professionals…fake social media accounts are increasing and if you’re not careful, they can diminish your credibility and destroy your social media high.

The folks over at StatusPeople, home of the Fake Follower Tool, recently shared some shocking stats. Did you know 71 percent of Lady Gaga’s 29 million followers on Twitter are fake or inactive?

So are 70 percent of President Obama’s nearly 19 million followers. With Twitter having more than 500 million registered users, could it be that less than half of those users are active while more than half are fake?

Pretty scary, considering Twitter has become the networking, information, and search engine of choice for many business professionals.

Building Your Social Networks

There used to be a time where I’d find people in my industry on Twitter and get giddy when I saw they had hundreds of thousands of followers. “Wow, this must be an influencer,” I’d think, and *click* went the follow button. Today, this is not the case. Now I determine who is “important” by what they say, when they say it, and through my own analysis.

Let’s get this part out of the way. Don’t buy twitter followers, okay? DON’T DO IT. Why? What’s the harm? To borrow a phrase from Peter Shankman, A KITTEN DIES EVERY TIME YOU BUY FAKE FOLLOWERS. I shouldn’t be typing in all caps here, but I’m going to break that rule for the sake of Twitterkind. Maybe it’s not that extreme, but it’s certainly tarnishing your brand and dwindling the platform that we are banking so much on (social media strategy and budget, anyone?).

Starting from scratch on social media can be daunting, yes. But I guarantee building your networks organically will be much more valuable in the long run than buying followers to raise your clout (or Klout) in the online sphere. The result will be a tightly knit, engaged network that is willing to advocate for your business and be brand ambassadors – no spambot does that.

Social media makes it easy – perhaps, too easy – to find new “people,” so we need to get into the habit of thinking twice when we do our metrics or look at our community numbers to protect the value of social media for business moving forward.

If you don’t buy fake followers, there’s still a good chance you have a few of them trolling your account. Do yourself a favor and look at the people following you on Twitter. If their profile picture is an egg, block them. If they are following thousands of people and only have one tweet, block them. If a profile doesn’t have a bio, then examine them more closely.

Getting Rid of the Fakes

If this is way too much of a manual process for you, following are a few apps that can help manage your followers:

  • StatusPeople can get you started by showing you how many of your followers are good, inactive, or fake.
  • Check out ManageFlitter, which lets you unfollow inactive users, or users who haven’t tweeted in six months.

The most proactive thing you can do is to take a look at the end of each day (or week) who has followed you, and do a three-second investigation on each. If they look real – cool. If there’s the slightest doubt that they’re fake, inactive, or spammy, then block or report them for spam.

Facebook has also recently revealed that 83 million of their 900 million active users are fake accounts. No bueno. Maybe not a cause for worldwide panic, but for communicators like us using social media platforms for PR or marketing, it’s definitely reason to mind our accounts closely and take the time to get to know our users and weed out the fillers. Your community will reward you and your social media efforts will improve as a result.

Stacey Acevero is the social media manager at Vocus. You can find her scouring Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn every day, creating content about PR, small business marketing, SEO, social media and marketing. Follow her on Twitter at sacevero.

  • sacevero

    @ginidietrich Thank you Gini! <3

    • ginidietrich

      @sacevero LOVE the photo you provided for the blog post. You’re so pretty.

      • sacevero

        @ginidietrich Sheesh, thanks 🙂 Nothing a little airbrushing can’t fix haha.

        • ginidietrich

          @sacevero Puh-lease! Gorgeous!

      • ljcrest

        @ginidietrich @sacevero Ditto! 😉

  • JennyQ

    @ginidietrich Great article! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • I know that a small percentage of my followers are either bots, spammers or inactive, but I don’t pay them much mind. They’ll drop off and I’m certainly not focused on those counts. 🙂 

    • John_Trader1

       @jasonkonopinski I’m secretly a bot Jason. I just look human.

      •  @John_Trader1 That’s okay, I’m really a 70 year old Jewish woman named Maude with bursitis. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  I knew it! 

      •  @John_Trader1  I’m glad I know better than this :p 

    •  @jasonkonopinski That’s a good philosophy to have. I definitely don’t think you need to be consumed by a few fake followers – just make sure the majority isn’t 🙂 

  • JacobNordby

    yeah! that’s good RT> @JennyQ look what I found… 😉 Faking it on Social Media: What are the Costs? by @sacevero

  • belllindsay

    I personally know someone, (who shall remain genderless and otherwise unrecognizable) who doesn’t check their followers, and sometimes retweets things these spammy followers tweet. One day, they RT’ed a porn bot. *That’s* why it’s important to at least click on any new followers to ensure there isn’t something potentially embarrassing looming. If it’s bad, block. 

    •  @belllindsay Oh my. A bit embarassing to say the least. 

  • StaceyHood

    @ginidietrich Wow, @sacevero is quite lovely & nice name also!

    • sacevero

      @StaceyHood Haha thanks! Nice to meet you Stacey.

      • StaceyHood

        @sacevero You’re welcome & nice to meet you as well!

    • ginidietrich

      @StaceyHood Isn’t she? @sacevero

      • StaceyHood

        @ginidietrich @sacevero Yes, very much so.

  • magriebler

    I absolutely agree that checking the authenticity of your new followers should be part of your daily (or at least weekly) routine. Just add it to the list: floss; drink coffee; go for a run; block spammers. Seems like a small thing to do, but ultimately it is your reputation that’s on the line. And as they love to say in those MasterCard ads, that’s priceless.

    •  @magriebler It seems like a lot of checking and rechecking, but I absolutely agree – once you make it part of a routine, it’s easier. 

  • I think the fake Follower Tool is awesome and was so pleased to see you included that in your post, Stacey. I find myself wondering about the inactives though. I spent a couple years lurking in social media and on Twitter before I felt really comfortable about being too talky. I wonder how many inactives, or lurkers, are reading every word but not yet ready to comment?

    •  @allenmireles My inkling is quite a few. I was a lurker at one time too, constantly reading and devouring and rather than engaging. Inactive doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad followers, I guess is the takeaway from this (which is why I stress observing the tweet streams of people who follow you). It’s easy to spot “empty accounts” versus accounts which just update less frequently than we may be used to. 

  • According to the StatusPeople app, 0% of my followers are fake. But I have routinely deleted the eggheads and their ilk from following me.

    •  @Ari Herzog Interesting – so the app isn’t completely flawless. Good to note. I like to keep these things in mind…especially if at one point my followers come up 97% fake, I can take that with a grain of salt. 

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  • I love the ones who have 100,000 followers, follow just 47 people, then follow me. Then when I follow them back… they unfollow me. So now they still follow just 47, but they now they have 100,001 followers. 
    Twitter games are so much fun, I just hope I can win one day 🙂 

  • I love the ones who have 100,000 followers, follow just 47 people, then follow me. Then when I follow them back… they unfollow me. So they still follow just 47, but they now they have 100,001 followers. 
    Twitter games are so much fun, I sure hope I win one of these days. 🙂 

    •  @barrettrossie No kidding. I find that frustrating…I mean, it’s tough to keep up with people once you start following in the thousands (my tweetdeck is constantly scrolling) BUT but for me it is a more valid experience as I am constantly discovering people in the industry. I combat this by compiling Twitter lists segmented by subjects. I’m sure that person could do the same…but prefers not to. 

  • bowden2bowden

    a great post don’t you think @JasminRez, I is tweepi to clean my stream (@ginidietrich)

    • JasminRez

      @bowden2bowden (@ginidietrich) Great indeed! Jaja I got my eyes peeled too..this is about engaging not just having another number list!

  • ShiCooks

    Getting rid of your fake followers with these easy tools by @sacevero || RT @ginidietrich @delwilliams

  • JoeHefferon

    Great job Stacey.  Keep the expose’s coming.

    •  @JoeHefferon Thanks for reading! 

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  • For my personal twitter – I have always taken the position of following people that I am interested in reading their tweets or links to articles. I have not been obsessing with my number of followers because that was not my intention of using twitter. Having said that, my follower number have grown albeit slowly over the past couple of years. I have also started using Engagio to manage my social conversations and build relationships. Engagio has a unique way of building your contact list and it is based on people you ‘conversed’ with – it is not as easy to follow people as it is on Twitter but the end result is better signal to noise ratio. 

    •  @abdallahalhakim Interesting – I will have to check Engagio out. I’d rather grow a network slowly and organically then obsess over numbers as well. 

  • hessiejones

    @JoselinMane @sacevero @geec0 @Spinsucks apparently 70% of @ladygaga’s followers are fake. @mashable’s numbers are high as well

  • hessiejones

    @JoselinMane @sacevero @geec0 @spinsucks oops, apparently those are already in the article; perhaps correlation btwn high volume/high bots

  • engagio

    .@geoffliving @sacevero @ginidietrich another reason why conversations is a strong social gesture that leads to authentic relationships

    • geoffliving

      @engagio You mean talk to each other? LOL, social is a relational media…

      • abdallahalhakim

        @geoffliving IMHO commenting whether it is thru twitter, FB, Disqus or others networks is a good step in building relationships cc @engagio

        • geoffliving

          @abdallahalhakim @engagio face to face is the best!

        • abdallahalhakim

          @geoffliving +100 – that is my favourite mode of interaction but online conversations can setup future face-to-face meeting cc @engagio

  • ThePapaPost

    @JoselinMane @sacevero @geec0 How about faking it long enough?

  • arianegriffiths

    @larawellman WHY?!? makes no sense.. What do u get out of it? I grew my biz/friend circle w/new followers but fakes wouldn’t have done that

    • larawellman

      @arianegriffiths I think people think it makes them look more influential. They probably would never think to use twitter the way we do

      • arianegriffiths

        @larawellman stupid… Anyone with any brains (and actually uses twitter) knows theyre fake.. Causes more damage IMO

  • larawellman

    @MishkaOttawa I’m going to check numbers when not on phone but I def have a lot of eggs

  • Integra_Flex

    @bdorman264 @ginidietrich I’d say for starters, a diluted brand.

  • rdopping

    Twitter is hilarious.
    During a normal week I go up and down by 10+ followers. I guess people follow and if I am not interested in their “thing” I don’t follow back and then invariably they unfollow me. Must I ALWAYS reciprocate?
    Oh dear, I didn’t even consider that my tweets might be crap!?! Naaaaa……just ask @ginidietrich  she’ll vouch for me.
    I like your suggestions and I actually have been checking out my followers up to now. I hopefully have deleted the ones that fit the profile of spammers or bots or whatever. Don’t want too many. Just means more work. There’s just this one @PeteTheTapeWorm that I can’t figure out if it’s a real person or not. Huh. 🙂

    •  @rdopping  Appreciate the comment. I don’t think it’s necessary to always reciprocate a follow – especially if their tweet stream doesn’t identify with what you’re interested in. 

  • larawellman

    @mishkaottawa 1% fake and 5% innactive. not bad actually! 🙂

    • MishkaOttawa

      @larawellman that’s pretty good

  • Amen, Stacey!  

  • billrundle

    @julielandry haha ‘a kitten dies every time you buy fake followers’ #amen

  • sacevero

    @indiraabidin Thanks for the tweet 🙂 Haha happy to see you are real.

  • Ivo_64

    @analyticus @sacevero Thank you for the kind Retweet Cees. Have a good Day, i.

  • sacevero

    @NancyCawleyJean Thanks Nancy!

    • NancyCawleyJean

      @sacevero My pleasure! Loved the post. Great to connect with you too!

  • Maryloucprxwmyq
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  • MarketngTidbits

    @efeher – thanks for the RT, Eszter! Hope you have a great weekend!

  • MarketngTidbits

    @nomenuk – I appreciate the RT!!

  • LHnow

    Faking it on Social Media: What are the Costs? #SM RT @NomenUK

    • NomenUK

      @LHnow Thanks for the RT! Have a great weekend 🙂

  • Great thread, it was a brilliant read.

  • TedRubin

    @JohnNosta Thanks for the RT buddy!

  • TedRubin

    @EricTTung Thanks buddy!

    • EricTTung

      @TedRubin NP!

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  • JohnLusher

    @functionasone WOOP! Happy you liked! @faking @sacevero

  • ryancox

    I just ran Stacey’s score, and it returned 34% fake 42% inactive 24% good. Sheesh Ace, didn’t know you were faking it so much!

    •  @ryancox Here comes that troublemaker Ryan again :p Statuspeople report for @sacevero: Fake 1% Inactive 7% Good 92% … for @ryaneecox … Fake 2% Inactive 9% Good 89% – you know, both of those are excellent. 

      • ryancox

         @sacevero  @ryaneecox I’m not getting the same report. Your metrics are off. #Acefaked lmao

        •  @ryancox  Ryan, I just ran her account and got the same stats Stacey did.  Of course anyone listening can run their own test and see for themselves and see there’s not much to fuss over. However, since she works for me I’d add, I can tell you first hand there isn’t anything fake about Stacey.  She’s the best social media manager anyone could ask for and works her heart out for the team. @sacevero 

        • ryancox

           @Frank_Strong  @sacevero Frank I was just giving a friend a hard time! lol No worries! (sorry for any confusion)

        •  @ryancox I see.  Could not discern that from the chatter here.  I can take hits; but one thing that makes horns grow out of my head is picking on my team.  It’s a strength and a weakness. Besides, I was thinking to myself, how can anyone possibly want to pick on Ace?  @sacevero 

        •  @Frank_Strong  <— Best. Boss. Ever. @ryancox You’re lucky you’re an actual friend :p 

        • ryancox

           @sacevero  @Frank_Strong It was a bad attempt at giving my friend Stacey a little grief. I thought my tone, albeit odd choice to some, was 100% clear I was joshing with a friend. I didn’t mean to give anyone a thought that what I was saying wasn’t just friends picking on friends. Stacey is total legit. Sorry for the confusion, it was (in hindsight) poor taste on my part.

        •  @ryancox  No worries brother. @sacevero 

  • It’s absolutely true that fake followers are the top level of a cascading avalanche of failure.  If you have fake or inactive followers, they can’t or won’t respond to your content. That will throw your numbers off.  And I say that from years of testing what the RESULTS of these actions are rather than passing a morality-based judgement — it just doesn’t work to have more followers than the action on what you share can back up. But given than even the official Twitter account has 33% fake or inactive folllowers, it makes me wonder how scientific this method of measuring which followers are fake and which are simply inactive. Unlike MySpace where everyone was automatically Tom’s friend, Twitter isn’t set up so that you have to follow Twitter when you first use Twitter. You have to manually follow at least your first follower. 

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  • ltcassociates

    For what it’s worth, StatusPeople (the site referenced in this article), is what I would call “Not Ready for Prime Time”. It does not deliver consistent, accurate results, and considering the Salem Witch Trials which ensue from using its product, arguably should be tabled until they can produce a verifiable output.
    I have notified the company repeatedly about specific issues (after several weeks, they informed me that their “customer feedback form” went straight into “junk mail”), before finally contacting them via Facebook. Although they are now aware of the problem, they have never remedied it, nor published any statement to their customers to my knowledge (even though presented proof that they were delivering inaccurate results).
    The only solution they proposed was to offer me a one-month refund.
    To the rest of you, I would not rely on the results you receive from a StatusPeople search. Sorry, wish I had better news to report. I love the concept, I really do. Maybe another company will spring up and duplicate the app, with better success.

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