I’m going to let you in on a little secret and its perhaps the best kept secret when it comes to social media and, specifically, Twitter and Facebook. Every day I get about three to four direct messages on my twitter feed saying I can get an instant 1,000 – 100,000 followers on Twitter depending on that number would depend on how much I would be prepared to pay. Now, for a start-up business setting out they may be tempted to do exactly that – convince themselves that somehow it’s the same as a direct mailing list that you can buy in the traditional sense. They get enamoured by the number and “100,000” instant followers for $499.95 and they jump right in.
They pay the money over (always by credit card) and sure enough they start amassing a huge following. For a few short days the euphoria sets in and they just cannot believe their luck – in other words they run around the office singing “winner, winner chicken dinner” … and then a week the reality begins to set in – the following begins to drop off and they realise they aren’t having their tweets re-tweeted. Actually even if they had have been retweeted it would not have mattered. Why?
Because the followings that are guaranteed are often nothing more than fake accounts that have been set up on mass for the specific purpose of getting you to fork over that first $499.95 and it’s not bad business when you consider if only 100 people took the offer up the company itself would stand to gain nearly $500,000. Why did I say there was no point in basing your hopes around retweets from this group of newly acquired followers? Because all they really do is retweet amongst each-other which means your hope of actually acquiring a customer is next to nil.
It’s not just business that is tempted acquire followers – when a Californian political lobby group had its number of Twitter followers jump as high as 95,000 things looked odd. Tim Farley of the James Randi Educational Foundation told thenextweb.com back in 2012: “You can see spikes in people’s follower counts, especially when it’s a celebrity in the news and things like that. But, a spike of 10,000 followers is just really, really odd,”
Full of skepticism, Farley ran the company’s twitter handle, @CARightToKnow, through Twitter Counter and found a distinct pattern within the handle’s follower base: The follower count would make a distinct jump within a 24-hour period, then begin to drop at a steady rate almost immediately after the boost. He then cross-referenced it with a second tool, StatusPeople’s Fake Follower check. From just a few minutes of searching and a healthy dose of common sense, Farley’s hunch proved spot on.
“It’s almost exactly a 10,000 follower jump right after September 17. Then right after October 2nd, it’s another 10,000 follower jump. Then after October 26th, it’s another 10,000 jump,” Farley explains. “They were clearly buying followers in 10,000 person batches.”
CA Right To Know’s role as an “abuser” — a repeat customer of buying these fake Twitter followers, gave Farley a commonly felt feeling that the group was producing a falsely trumped-up image and crossing an ethical line.
“I think it’s shady because clearly those followers are just robotically created accounts — they don’t generate any value for you,” Farley says. “The only way is to boost that number up, and if you’re doing it this way, you’re lying.”
So, why is direct mailing still relevant? Because at the least data collected is real in terms of email addresses and locations. Its also a heavily regulated sector in many countries that speaks to both the method of collection and the ability of people to opt out of a list if they want to. In other words what you are paying for is exactly what you get.
When it comes to Twitter the only regulation around the quality of a “Tweeter” is enforced by the company itself and we all know that there are so many fake accounts out there from celebrities impersonators to individuals that just don’t exist – and yet Twitter remains a powerful tool for marketing, branding and creating buzz.
The message – create your buzz in such a way that it generates real results. Here are some things that you can do that ensure quality followers and engagement:
Follow the followers of your competitors thereby potentially acquiring their audience to follow you (some research shows that out of every 10 people you follow 1 may follow you back – therefore if your competitor has 5,000 followers then you can follow about 1,000 of their followers every 48 hours which means if you stick it at it you may very well be able to convert a percentage of their followers to your tribe
Follow people who follow an area or topic of interest that is directly associated with your product – don’t just follow people for the sake of following them
Use #tags that are relevant to your business, industry or product.
Finally, use tools to understand what is happening with your Twitter account such as http://twittercounter.com/
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