Buying Twitter followers, yes or no?

Submitted by on the 16th of August 2012

Twitter is growing exponentially globally. Users are starting to realise that there’s a real currency on Twitter; it’s called credibility and influence. What makes Twitter the home of credibility and influence is that you can’t force people to follow you, it’s not as easy as sending a friend request. We don’t look at someone with 2500 friends on Facebook and automatically assume they have influence. We know they sent out quite a few requests.

However, there’s an ever-growing anomaly with Twitter followers vs. credibility. A booming ‘Twitter follower’ industry is growing under our noses without us even realising it.

Recently Barracuda did a study on the ‘underground’ Twitter economy. What they found was that there are 20 sellers on eBay and 58 Websites that are currently selling Twitter followers. The average price to pay for fake followers is $18,00 per 1000. The average abuser (a person who buys fake followers) has 48 885 followers. 61% of fake accounts are less than three months old, and the average age of a fake account is 19 weeks old. The oldest fake account they uncovered was created on January 15, 2007 (@krails).

Barracuda did a deep dive on Mitt Romney’s Twitter account. Suspiciously his follower count rose by 17% in one day to well over 808,000 followers. What they found was that 80% of these new accounts were less than three months old. 25% were not even three weeks old. 1 in 4 of Romney’s new Twitter accounts have never sent a single tweet. 10% of the accounts have already been suspended by Twitter.

So if Romney paid for these followers then what does that say about his Twitter presence? Well, for one it means that he doesn’t have nearly the actual reach that his Twitter follower count professes. His credibility has dropped not only in the Twittersphere, but also in the ‘real’ world. He may be seen as influential at first glance, but we all know whatever’s under the hood is fake.

Why would someone want to buy Twitter followers in the first place? I’m assuming that if you buy Twitter followers it’s firstly because you’re trying to appear more influential and popular than what you really are on Twitter. Which means that there’s a deeper issue – low self esteem, surely?

So here’s my advice: Whatever you do, don’t buy Twitter followers. It’s the same as renting people to come to your party so that you appear to know more people than you really do. Or like a Ferrari with an Uno’s engine – looks fast but can’t perform and ultimately impresses no one. If you buy Twitter followers your credibility, influence and online reputation will go the way of the Titanic. People aren’t stupid, they’ll soon find out that you paid for those fake followers and pretty soon, the fake ones are the only ones you’ll be left with.

Here are some tips on how to grow your following organically*;
– Build them slowly, the slower your numbers rise the slower they will decrease
– Twitter is not just about you, retweet and link to other things besides yourself
– Try and follow more people, the more people know about you the better your chance of a follow
– Post content that you know people will want to consume, whether it’s humorous, informative, inspiring etc. people won’t follow you if what you’re saying isn’t adding value to them. Only a friend will follow you no matter what you post.
– Lastly, be unique, be yourself, be authentic

* Some of these tips from Charting the Underground Twitterverse