“You see a higher follower count, or a higher retweet count, and you assume this person is important, or this tweet was well received,” said Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, a company that makes search engine optimization software. “As a result, you might be more likely to amplify it, to share it or to follow that person.”
In 2008 the world imploded on me. I had just started to scrape together a very respectable living in retail banking/brokerage. Then the Crash hit. Over the course of a month and as the days got shorter through October what I had known professionally disappeared. Across the country many other people were in a similar boat.
I looked around trying to find my bearings. In the dust and the chaos I saw 2 obvious opportunities. One of these opportunities was the price of silver which at the height of the crash was trading at under $9/ounce. I had a very strong feeling that it would do very well, and indeed it did. It went from $9 to almost $50/ounce in 2 years. Sadly I couldn’t take advantage of this opportunity like I would like to have.
However the other opportunity I saw was in social media.
It’s almost impossible to remember now but in 2008/2009 social media was still not mainstream. But I had seen how powerful it was as I watched the rise of The Ron Paul Revolution. Paul’s speeches online did an end route around the “mainstream” media which would not give him or his ideas the time of day. Through online media he had become a contender – sheer people power. This I could see was going to change the world. As such, in the cold of the winter of 2008/2009 I founded Exelorix, my social media consulting company. It was a fresh frontier. A new industry.
It wasn’t until about 2011 that businesses started to realize that social media wasn’t an option, that it was as important to business as a website. But from there people did start to get it. And at about that time I saw the first fake follower mills popping up.
My philosophy on social media is that it should be filled with legitimate connections. What’s the point of paying some guy in Pakistan to load up your profile with tens of thousands (sometimes much more than that) of followers if the followers are fake?
The theory of course is that with a massive fake following one looks more legit. (Funny how our world works sometimes.) If one is an up and coming artist (or wishes to be one) the temptation is to load up on fictitious followers. The same goes for up and coming companies etc. Overnight, around 2010/2011, I saw “famous” people with hundreds of thousands of what looked to me to be obviously fake followers. (I also noticed that many of the people with these types of followers suddenly were also blessed with “verified” Twitter accounts. Something with which we’ve never been blessed despite a large and entirely legitimate following.)
One of the problems with accounts filled with fake followers is that one just knew that sooner or later the less than social media savvy were going to freak out when they realize they’d been duped. (These folks assume that all of us were. Nope.) This is what we are starting to see now.
Many of us who spend much of our lives online (a large percentage of the population) know how fake the followings of many of these people are. But politicians, who are often less than savvy, and even media people who should be much more savvy, fret.
I find fake followings very annoying. We’ve gathered our following on different platforms through entirely “white hat” means. It stinks that some engage in behavior which though not fraud (in most cases), is obviously dishonest. But puffery is nothing new. There is a reason why many people feel the need to put out a “fake” image of themselves. Think about how many times you’ve seen rappers in videos with obviously rented cars in the background. The image that takes in the unsophisticated is that these dudes are straight up pimping and rolling in “paper.” But those of us who know the deal, and it’s a lot of people, know that the artist’s agent rented the Rolls for the shoot and that the car will soon be going back to the Enterprise “exotics” rental lot. Fake followers are kind of like that. They are used to convey an image. To sucker those who are not hip to what is going on.
Get hip.Because if you don’t the politicians are going to think that they have the right to come in and screw things up worse.
Be skeptical. Spend your time with people online who don’t insult your intelligence with fake followers.
The internet is not a “safe place,” and it shouldn’t be. Just be smart.
By the way we thank all of our followers out there. You guys are why we are here. And because you are ACTUAL REAL PEOPLE we’ve been able to do what we do. Our community is fantastic. Even you trolls. Even you guys are fun sometimes.
(From The New York Times)
All these accounts belong to customers of an obscure American company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.
The accounts that most resemble real people, like Ms. Rychly, reveal a kind of large-scale social identity theft. At least 55,000 of the accounts use the names, profile pictures, hometowns and other personal details of real Twitter users, including minors, according to a Times data analysis…
…The Times reviewed business and court records showing that Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. In most cases, the records show, they purchased their own followers. In others, their employees, agents, public relations companies, family members or friends did the buying. For just pennies each — sometimes even less — Devumi offers Twitter followers, views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud, the music-hosting site, and endorsements on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site.
The actor John Leguizamo has Devumi followers. So do Michael Dell, the computer billionaire, and Ray Lewis, the football commentator and former Ravens linebacker. Kathy Ireland, the onetime swimsuit model who today presides over a half-billion-dollar licensing empire, has hundreds of thousands of fake Devumi followers, as does Akbar Gbajabiamila, the host of the show “American Ninja Warrior.” Even a Twitter board member, Martha Lane Fox, has some.