More Fake Twitter Followers Than You May Think puts up a “fake follower” chart and score for major political figures and brands. The chart suggests that places like CNN, ESPN and Facebook paid services to boost their follower level.
The evidence isn’t clear. Twitter’s own account seems to have 37% of fake followers. I doubt the official Twitter account on its own service would have a need or a care about boosting its follower numbers. That stat alone makes the data seem quite iffy.
Business owners pull me aside at whatever cocktail hour or charity event we’re both attending and ask me about follower numbers. I usually advise pretty strongly against it, because more tech is coming out for users to query your account for fake accounts and that loss of trust can be damaging. On the other hand, Behavioral Economics researchers have noticed that people are more likely to engage in behaviors that they feel as though the majority of their peers are doing. For example, major hotel chains figured out that guest complied more with a sign that said “[the majority]% of guests staying here opted to hang dry their towels to help save the environment” than with a sign that simply said, “Please hang dry your towels for re-use in order to help save the environment.”
In that sense, more followers, the pure numbers, may help initially to bolster your numbers. We all seem obsessed with follower numbers. Popularity-ranking apps like Klout and Kred weigh follower numbers heavily into their algorithms. The real drive, though, isn’t about numbers on any one platform. I tell business owners to just slowly and steadily build up their audience until they have a core crowd of believers, then deliver useful content to that core group.
AdAge and other brand watchers have long noticed that major products and companies can’t seem to get anywhere near the follower numbers of celebrities. There’s a reason for this: companies/brands ARE NOT PEOPLE. We’re just not all that interested in interacting with what are essentially buildings. The integrity of the relationship just doesn’t exist; one just cannot speak with a brand.
There’s only so much interaction from the public that businesses can expect. Email marketing still seems to be trumping tweets for generation, so small businesses should concentrate on building up and respecting that list, using Twitter as a niche add-on.
Fake followers are easy and cheap, but will they really buy you the exposure you want? Yelling into more darkness is just as effective as yelling into a small bit. You’re still yelling to a non-existent crowd. Best to keep things on the up-and-up and build your follower numbers the old fashioned way: slowly, surely and with great content.