Should you Fake it?*

The pros and cons of buying followers

It’s great to feel popular and there’s no easier way to determine your popularity through Twitter followers and Facebook likes. So it’s time to confess now – do you look at other Twitter pages and sigh with jealousy at their admirable number of followers? That’s all very well, but would you go so far as to fake your popularity?

Let’s analyse the pros and cons of buying your followers:

Pro’s of buying followers

The clout is in the numbers – the bandwagon effect certainly applies to Twitter and the more followers a Twitter account seems to have, the more importance a user places with it and therefore the more likely they are to follow. The same applies to most social networking profiles, in fact.

It’s cheap – For less than five British pounds, on the Fiverr website, you can gain as many as 10,000 Twitter followers overnight. There are also many more websites offering similar deals.

Should you buy fake followers?

Cons of buying followers

Forsaking quality for quantity – your numbers are up but your engagement remains the same. Why? Because the majority of your numbers are made up of ‘empty’ accounts. They’re mere shells so don’t go expecting any response from them. If you want retweets and valuable interaction, then your followers need to be real people who haven’t been paid to follow you.

Damaged reputation – we’re in an age where authenticity is hugely valued. If your users can’t trust you, how can they trust your products or service? Why not use Twitter’s Promoted Accounts service instead? This way, your paid-for-promotion is transparent and can still increase your followers without being underhand.

It’s a lie – no further explanation required – your popularity is a lie.

It’s the lazy way – building a loyal and engaged following takes time, thought and effort. It’s not easy, but it is fulfilling. Like building a house, you have to have solid foundations first and quality materials.

They’re not really followers – if you’ve paid for them, you can’t really claim they’re ‘followers’. They’re not even real people.

Fake followers can be dangerous – having fake followers can be like inviting hooligans to your party. Do you want them to target your genuine, lovely audience with phishing scams and dodgy links?

Admittedly, this is a rather unbalanced list, but we really can’t think of any more pro’s. However, with hundreds of companies touting their ‘fake follower’ wares and around 1 million fake accounts in circulation, it would seem there is demand for it. Indeed large brands and celebrities have been ‘caught in the act’. For example, according to the New York Times, Italian researchers, Andrew Stroppa and Carlo de Micheli have named and shamed companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Louis Vuitton, the Russia Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and celebrities such as 50 Cents for buying followers. This doesn’t, by any means, infer that its right, even if it is legal.

Unfortunately, increasing your number of followers the ‘right way’ (ie no trickery), is down to a spot on digital strategy, great content and appropriate online personality for your audience. If this isn’t working, you need to rethink, not reach into your wallet.

And lastly, did any of you watch Dispatches ‘Celebs, brands and Fake Fans’ Monday 5th August 2013, 8pm?

* You’re on the wrong site if you’re currently wondering whether a) he knows or b) is she?