Days after I published my book, Full Stack Recruiter, I started getting messages and emails from random people asking the same thing: “Can I get a free book? I will help you to promote it,” and many other variants of those messages.
It’s one of the ways you can market your product; give influencers the commodity, money, or discount on your service, and they will promote it on their social sites. But those requests didn’t come from any influencers I know but from random people.
One of the requests was different from the others. “Can you give me five books for free?, I am an influencer, and I will help you to promote them!“
I was curious as to why that person needed to get five books and why he mentioned that he was an influencer. And because I had never heard his name, I checked his profile on social sites. He had 1,000 people on the LinkedIn network and 500+ Twitter followers.
I replied that I was not interested, but after three weeks I got another email from the “wannabe influencer” that he had now 12,000 Twitter followers, and he asked me when I was going to send him five books.
I was curious about what amazing growth hack that person used to expand his number of Twitter followers that quickly. That type of growth could be only done by three things, by paid advertisement, growth hacking, or he had to buy fake followers.
I went through his Twitter feed to check the engagement of his followers; with the number of followers if he had the engagement should have been quite significant. But there was almost none, so I decided to analyze his followers and find out what methods he used to expand his list.
Analyzing Twitter Followers
We are living in a time when you can easily buy app reviews, fake YouTube views, fake likes and followers, and more. Some studies have shown that more than 40 percent of internet traffic is fake and generated by bots.
That’s why there are also many tools (also using A.I.) to help users to analyze their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. and find fake profiles, bots, etc. Those tools are handy, especially when you want to start cooperating with somebody who has a big list of followers but small engagement on their posts.
I checked the Twitter profile of the “Twitter influencer” who asked me for five books and most of his followers were faked.
Below are tools that I used for this analysis.
Followers Audit Tools
This tool will give you necessary information about the number of real and fake profiles together with an audit score, that’s a percentage how many real followers you have vs. how many fake followers you have.
How it works: Each audit takes a sample of up to 5000 (or more if you subscribe to Pro) Twitter followers for a user and calculates a score for each follower. This score is based on the number of tweets, date of the last tweet, and the ratio of followers to friends. Of course, this scoring method is not perfect, but it is an excellent way to tell if someone with lots of followers is likely to have increased their follower count by inorganic, fraudulent, or dishonest means.
I like this tool because it will give you more information than other tools about the targeted profiles. You can find more information here.
How it works: This tool audits a sample of 2,000 random followers for any given account and runs diagnostics found to correlate with these types of fake followers strongly.
This tool will show you the percentage of fake, inactive, and good followers.
How it works: We take a sample of your follower data, up to 1,000 records depending on how ‘popular’ you are, and assess them against several simple spam criteria. On a fundamental level, spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets. But in contrast, they tend to follow a lot of other accounts.
None of these tools is perfect, and I am sure that not all the results are 100% correct, but they will give you some interesting information about the targeted Twitter profiles.
Disclaimer: The data below are directly from those applications I mentioned above. I am not implying that those people bought or are buying fake followers to raise their influence. I only tested those tools on those profiles and am sharing the data; keep in mind that bots could follow any profile and you can’t influence that.
After I tested the profile of the “wannabe influencer” with 12,000 Twitter followers, I was curious about how the other accounts are affected by those bots.
Based on the news, Donald Trump complained to Twitter’s CEO about having lost over 200,000 followers. And if those numbers are real and Twitter will remove all bots and fake profiles, the amount will soon be much higher. 🙂
I also tested my Twitter account to see how many fake followers I have on my Twitter account because the number of my followers is low; I also checked those profiles manually, and the results should be more or less correct.
And because I was curious as to how accurate those tools are, I decided to create a test. And if you have read a few of my articles, you will know that I like various tests.
In this case, I created a test case that included seven groups (a list of HR Tech Influencers, speakers from SourceCon Seattle, Top HR Influencers (April), and a list of most-followed celebrities, and I also included my favorite Bollywood movie stars and few Hollywood movie stars. Note: Like you, I also don’t like the word “Influencer.”
The Top 10 Most-Followed Twitter Accounts
Bollywood Movie Stars
Hollywood Movie Stars
Complete results will be shared on my Twiter account.
Top 10 Most-Followed Profiles
– The average number of fake followers – 45.04%
– By Statuspeople on average, they have 10.70% of fake profiles, 64.50% inactive, and 24.80% good profiles.
SourceCon Seattle 2019
– The average number of fake followers – 11.79%
– By Statuspeople on average, they have 7.30% of fake profiles, 38.23% inactive, and 54.47% good profiles.
HR Tech Influencers
– The average number of fake followers – 11.59%
– By Statuspeople on average, they have 8.13% of fake profiles, 38.43% inactive, and 53.43% good profiles.
Global Top HR Leaders
– The average number of fake followers – 15.76%
– By Statuspeople on average, they have 11.59% of fake profiles, 41.82% inactive, and 46.59% good profiles.
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Bollywood Movie Stars
– The average number of fake followers – 49.19%
– By Statuspeople on average, they have 9.17% of fake profiles, 68.17% inactive, and 22.67% good profiles.
Hollywood Movie Stars
– The average number of fake followers – 45.04%
– By Statuspeople on average, they have 18.00% of fake profiles, 53.60% inactive, and 28.40% good profiles.
In 2013 Twitter admits 5% of Its ‘Users’ are fake, in December 2017, for example, the Twitter identified an average of 6.4 million suspicious accounts each week, as you can see the number of fake accounts has grown over the years.
During that test, I also found that people who are using apps that manage their accounts in social networks are getting smaller engagement on their tweets. It is particularly visible at the moment when one blog posts an article that others are automatically resharing through those apps.
The article is shared by hundreds of people on the same day, even in the same hour. And the engagement of the readers is very low because they are following many similar people who are sharing the same article. And Twitter will show primary the content of one person and not that of twenty other people. That’s why tweets that are created by real people and not through the apps have higher engagement.
Why People Are Using Click Farms and Buying Following
The main reason is to get exposure. Videos with more views on YouTube will move into the “trending” category, and that means that more people will see them. And more views = more new followers and more money from ads.
The higher numbers are also about perception. The number of followers is something that many people look at when sizing up an account to follow, and it’s a standard metric that brands use to measure their efforts.
A study from 2016 said that Twitter users have a 5.2 times increase in purchase intent after seeing promotional content from influencers. And that number is more prominent in 2019 and, as Twitter says, users now trust influencers nearly as much as their friends.
That’s why some companies and people are trying to give their account an artificial boost and increase their exposure as quickly as possible. More followers give them more significant credibility because the human mind likes numbers. A large number of followers, shares, and likes will provide viewers with a form of social proof.
People and business are also boosting their numbers “because they’re afraid that when people go to their Facebook page, and they only see 12 or 15 likes, they’re going to lose potential customers.” So said a spokesperson for one of the services selling likes.
The developer, Rameet Chawla built a script that liked every photo that passed through his Instagram feed. He found out that he was getting around 30 new followers per day and also getting more invites to parties, even his activity that wasn’t created engagement with others on Instagram.
And models and other celebrities are using similar tools. The apps they are using will follow you, and when you follow them too, that application will unfollow you automatically, but you are still following them. This is one trick they’re using to get new followers.
And also the snowball effect works in their advantage. The more people who like their Facebook update, Tweet, or Instagram post, the more people will see it and like it too. People are influenced by what others in their immediate surroundings do, and that’s why the snowball effect and social proof are used to build credibility.
You can see the same snowball effect on LinkedIn; there are two “influencers,” and even they are posting things that are not real, supported by any data and relevant sources, and the number of likes under their posts is quite high. And because people see that their friends also like it, they are paying attention to that post and hitting like too because others also like it.
There is no doubt that we are living in the age of social media influencer. It’s easier than ever before to influence a big group of people with one post. That virtual power also creates the illusion that everybody can be an influencer overnight; the only thing you need to do is to buy some followers.
An interesting article about this topic was published in the New York Times. “No, Your Instagram ‘Influence’ Is Not as Good as Cash, Club Owner Says” and it shows how some people think that a bigger network of followers could be used as currency instead of money.
Others are also using the current situation where people are looking for shortcuts to become like those other Insta celebrities, to their advantage. There are many apps out there that are offering easy ways to get more followers quickly. But as cybersecurity organization Malwarebytes Labs found, these Instagram follower boost apps are just a way for hackers to gain access to user passwords and steal Instagram accounts.
We are living in the age of the influencer, and this presents an excellent opportunity for all types of brands. And if it’s done right, the endorsement from the influencer could quickly drive new sales, etc. But it is also essential to check if the influence is real or if that person just bought his audience. Luckily brands have started to care more about reach and engagement rate than their number of followers. Instagram has begun to experiment with hiding the like counts from photos and view counts from videos. This should result in a situation whereby users will pay attention to the content itself and not their associated engagement metrics like the number of likes.
“Years of lucrative manipulative systems have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online than it does to be real.” (source: Techspot.com) Buying fake influence is cheap and fast, but it’s only creating influencers without influence.
Buying followers and likes bring fast results, but the truth is you can quickly lose that “influence” the next day when the social site removes it. An interesting test was done by the Adespresso team to demonstrate the difference between using bots and not using them. Their takeaway is that you can’t bot your way to a business.
Like anything in life, building a social media following and good engagement takes work, and there are no shortcuts; particularly when you are trying to build influence, there is no overnight success.
And if you are asking yourself, “How Much of the Internet Is Fake?” the answer is A lot!