Should brands worry about fake Twitter followers?

The author tests a tool to see how many brands have fake followers. He isn’t impressed by the results, and you shouldn’t be, either.


I recently received a list that included the “top fake artists” who bought followers on Twitter. It included many widely known electronic music DJs with their stage names and Twitter accounts.

Wait a minute; this is a serious issue. The person who created this list made potentially damaging information public. Is this damage really necessary? If you’re going to make such a claim, you better be 100 percent sure. Also make sure your source is reliable enough to put your credibility, name and reputation at stake.

Something doesn’t add up

I started testing brands, famous people, regular users, and even my clients with a tool called Status People. This tool supposedly measures the level of fake fans a user may have on Twitter.

I was surprised that, according to this tool, many relevant, famous people with large followings have many fake followers. For instance, 30 percent of Gerard Piqué’s 4 million followers are fake, and 50 percent of Josef Ajram‘s 120,000 followers are fake. Something just doesn’t add up.

Another part of Status People shows inactive followers, which are also a high percentage of many accounts. What does Status People base its calculations on to say whether a user is active or inactive? And how does it determine who is fake?

You can’t measure what isn’t in your reach

I contacted Status People to ask if the tool was 100 percent reliable. They told me its tool follows every tweet made by a user in his or her timeline, as it cannot access the Twitter database. (Of course it can’t.)

What this means is this type of tool follows every tweet from a specific user, and if the user doesn’t publish something in a few days, configures his or her account to protect tweets, or if the tweets are based on location (the tool doesn’t use geolocation), the tool defines the user as inactive. Does this add up? Not to me.

Ego-system tools

I think this is a clear example of what causes social media disruption, makes the ego-system we live in bigger, distracts us, and prevents us from doing the work that really matters. Tools like Status People, Klout, PeerIndex, and a few others simply try to get users to subscribe so they can store their information. Some of them even try to get you to pay for their services!

Forget about scores, ranks, points, or any other classification method. They’re just trying to fit you into a system. Once they have you, they’ll forget about you and try to find other sheep to add to the herd.

If you’re wondering what the result of my fake follower count is, I did it while I wrote this. It is 6 percent fake followers, 25 percent inactive, and 69 percent active.

A version of this article originally appeared on SmartBlog on Social Media.

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