Twitter Followers For Sale -- $17 for 1,000
Let's say you're new to social media. You use it in a professional capacity. You want to have a substantial Twitter following so that you can look impressive and attract even more followers. Do you:
A) Work hard at building your online presence, slog through tweets and retweets, cruise popular hashtags, think of interesting, insightful things to say and give people real reason to want to subscribe to your feed.
B) Shell out a couple of bucks.
For a lot of people, this isn't a hard decision. Somebody's Twitter following may be an indication of social clout but a growing industry of underground Ebay resellers and websites are putting a fairly cheap price tag on new followers – I found a few websites selling for $17-18 for 1,000. I ran a quick experiment, and buying them couldn't be simpler — just put in your name and payment info, and the followers are delivered a few days later. A source that asked to remain anonymous said that he recently purchased 225,000 followers for a corporate account.
An Estimated 83 Million Facebook Profiles are Fake
Jason Ding at Barracuda Labs ran a more extensive experiment. His team took to Ebay and Google to purchase between 20,000 and 70,000 followers for three accounts, then analyzed where all this traffic was coming from. The report found around 72,212 fake accounts in total, all following just under 2001 people – indicating that Twitter might use that number for detecting spam abuse. It also found 78 separate dealers offering this service.
Some of the followers are obvious fakes – no followers, pictures, or tweets. Others are quite convincing. Here's a description of a fake follower that says as much as anything about the way people portray themselves on Twitter:
"News hound, super sleuth, yoga girl, wannabe foodie, resturant snob, world traveler."
A representative from Twitter pointed out that these sorts of services could be in violation of these bullets in Twitters Terms of Service.
If you have attempted to "sell" followers, particularly through tactics considered aggressive following or follower churn;
Creating or purchasing accounts in order to gain followers;
Using or promoting third-party sites that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising "more followers fast," or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account);
These violations don't seem to be slowing down the market. Youtube views, Facebook likes and all manner of stats and numbers are on the market as well. Some sellers operate right out in the open, others have ways of staying undetected. Some accounts follow a few famous people or average accounts to avoid suspicion, and abusers buy from different sources to keep trends from emerging. The more expensive the followers, the more real they're likely to appear.
Abusers may be in good company, as well. Ding's Report analyzed Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney's impressive one-day 17% jump in Twitter followers. It found that of those new followers, 25% were less than three weeks old, and 23% had never tweeted. Newt Gingrich has also been accused of similar Twitter fraud.
This shouldn't surprise anyone – social media clout is big business, and it fuels legitimate operations and underground scams alike. Take this along with the recent news that Facebook is flooded with phony likes and fake profiles, and think a little bit harder about just what those numbers are saying – if anything.