« Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter and I have been using it since 2011. It is an unmatched tool for market watching and one of the hottest place for serendipitous exploration. But when it comes to marketing, there is definitely something wrong with it: everyone wants more followers. It might be okay if you are a newborn brand trying to gain momentum but I do not see the point when a PR employee or a marketing agency quotes the number of Twitter followers they have to justify their existence.

We end up in a world of endless rankings of the most popular Twitter accounts in the Y industry, and with countless people, including C-level people, tweeting about how popular they are. There are some studies on the impacts of this behavior. As social media is getting more and more ubiquitous, it is becoming imperative for businesses to get on board.

Twitter, in my opinion, has been corrupted by vanity metrics and narrow-sighted marketing campaigns which main purpose is to increase the number of followers of a given account. Surprisingly enough, the first KPI shown for a campaign on Twitter Ads was an estimation of the amount of followers it will attract rather than the number of leads it will generates.

So I decided to make an experiment to show the limits of this form of Big Swinging Dick marketing. I decided to increase by a swooping 50.000% my own numbers of followers.

The whole process was quick and easy. I had not use neither Tor nor Bitcoins. I went on Fiverr, a discount marketplace where you can find and buy practically anything. I typed “twitter followers” and the search engine returned more than 1.500 results. I chose the first result, prosaically entitled “5K international followers within 24 hours”, offered by a seller from Eastern Europe. For less than the price of a Starbucks Latte (5$), this modern Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov offered me an instant spike of “popularity”. If I were a marketing director, I would certainly call this an overnight triumph.

What happened next? Nothing in particular. My account is still up and running. Nobody called me a fraud. My exact number of followers varies as more bots and sometimes real followers come in and out. Worst, some relatives asked me recently how they can increase their visibility on Twitter. I can give them some advice…

Buying followers falls in the gray area of social marketing. The seller I chose also offered Twitter Trends, Youtube reviews, LinkedIn endorsements and Facebook likes at a bargain. He just asked for a Twitter username. What if a rogue SEO consultant decided to ridiculously inflate the numbers of his competitors’ followers? Or flood them with phony tweets?

Countermeasures are scarce. Some companies are able to determine if a Twitter account is dubious or not and thus provide figures on the number of fake followers. Removing them is another matter as there is no automatized way yet to do it. And there are also counter-countermeasures. Most of my followers are sketchy (no profile picture nor phony name) but my seller also offers so-called HD followers, who mimic their real counterparts.

Buying Twitter followers is like post-modern plastic surgery. That is probably the reason why it is so popular amongst celebrities, actors and politicians. »

Romain Willmann

Original article first published here: ibm.biz/BdHHam