Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why Purchasing Twitter Followers is a Bad Idea

Mitt Romney recently made headlines for purchasing followers.  There was some media backlash, which didn't help him at the time in improving his ability to seem more "genuine" to the American people.  It was unfortunate circumstances for Mitt, but it's not uncommon practice.  Business, Celebrities, and political figures alike are doing whatever they can to acquire the cachet that comes with having a large following.  Entertainment personalities use it to try and prove credibility in order to get bookings, growing businesses want to appear larger and more mainstream, and I already mentioned what politicians are doing.  Of course, it has always been the job of Marketing firms to grow the reach and expand the presence of their clients.  However, social media has caused some to turn to one of the more "dark arts" practices of marketing today -- purchasing followers.
It's hard to spend any time on Twitter and not notice the messages from users like @TeamFollowBack and other unsavory accounts claiming that you can get thousands of followers in a day.   The funny thing is that it's technically true.  You can pay them, and they will make sure your follower count rises.  These are the kinds of twitter follower purchases that I've found out there:
I could go on, but I the list literally goes on forever.  This trend of follower purchasing services started out as sort-of annoying to me about a year ago, but it's now so widespread, that it has even caused me to think twice about these services.  Even Fiverr has a listing for 1,000 followers at $5.  These types of sites promise the following kinds of features:
  • More followers
  • Replacement followers (when accounts get blocked by Twitter)
  • "Money Back Guarantee"
  • Almost Instantaneous results
  • Great Customer Service
If I didn't know better, I would think these to be legitimate companies.  They look and feel like solid companies with a solid business.  For the time being, these companies are probably making money, and probably seeing their revenues grow as the market grows with businesses attempting to grow their social media presence.  But it won't last...

I know, it may be tempting to purchase fans, but follow (no pun intended) your gut on this.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  MediaBistro has caught onto the trend, and exclaimed their warning about this practice.  A recent article in the New York Times cited that Twitter itself has several lawsuits out against businesses creating and selling fake accounts.  Other services are seeing success to weed out fake accounts. Statuspeople and Fakefollowercheck.  It's only a matter of time before we see a "hip" congressman try to pass legislation on the subject.

My prediction is that there will be a turn in the market, at some point, where credibility will override volume of followers, and these analytical tools that weed out the fakes will become so accurate and robust that the market will fear having spammy followers.  It sounds like wishful thinking at the current moment, but with Twitter and other services on the hunt, I think it will happen.  It's certainly "trending" that way;)  Besides, isn't the point of followers to attract new customers, and people whom might actually like your product in the first place?  Purchasing followers, of which most are fake accounts (or controlled by people working on the clock) goes against that philosophy.  They'll do you no good other than give you a higher follower count.  Plus, they'll probably end up annoying your true customers.   Don't let the desire for more followers overcome your good sensibility, and make sure you don't get sucked into the follower purchasing race.

Do you agree?  Let me know if you have any experience with these companies.  I'd love to hear more support, or even the other side of this.