Why a big following on Twitter is a scam

I hit 500 followers today on Twitter. It gave me a fuzzy feeling, and I took a screenshot for prosterity. There are loads and loads of people who seem to have thousands of followers and at first glance you might say that they are the ones that we really should all be following. But I don’t think so. I think that’s a scam. You, too, can have a thousand followers by the end of the day. I’ll show you how… and also show argue why you shouldn’t try.

How to get a thousand followers on Twitter

Well frankly it looks really easy to get that many followers. Just go and follow all of the followers of the biggest twitter pimps in the industry. The one I’d start with are http://twitter.com/guykawasaki (73,087 followers) and if you want to find the biggest pimps in your own vertical, just find a name you respect in your vertical and plug them into http://friendorfollow.com Then click on the “friends” tab and then sort by “followers”. My most popular friend is http://twitter.com/stephenfry (238,870 followers). But he’s one of the very few people I follow for no logical reason.

Presumably Twitter have something in place to stop this sort of thing, but in principal (you can either do this manually, or using a script…)  you can manually follow one person in Stephen fry’s follow list every 5 seconds, that would mean you are following 5,760 in an 8 hour day. Presumably around one in four blindly follow you back. So the next day, you un-follow any person that didn’t follow you back and you have well over 1000 followers.

So let’s say you didn’t trip Twitter’s filters… maybe did this but at a slower pace and less obviously. What have you achieved? Well you now have over 1000 followers who are – for all useful marketing purposes – a random sample. They have no allegiance to your area of business and no knowledge of who you are. If I did that, then talking about SEO on Twitter would be receiving Nigerian phishing scams in the follower’s inbox. It won’t work talking to these people.

But it’s still going to work for your target audience… just carry on being you and I guess what will happen is that people in your industry will then start to follow you and those not in your industry will start to fade away. People may look at you and see you have lots of followers – and they make the tragic assumption that the followers are genuine. Oh… wait… that’s scuppering my intended argument to say don’t do that. Hmm…

There’s something very wrong here. I can see how to double my followers – and I suspect I won’t even upset my “real” friends in the process. In doing so, I create an illusion of being more important than I am, which might have the effect of creating a self created mantle. I don’t like the sound of that – do you?

So – the moral of the tale. Only follow people you know or admire. Un-follow anyone with followings greater than a field of sheep. Otherwise you play into a cycle of deception which is already being played on a huge scale of twitter.

9 thoughts on “Why a big following on Twitter is a scam

  1. First of all Dixon – great choice on the new blog design, love it. Especially the huge subscribe box top right!

    Onto the post – very valid points. I think its very easy to make yourself popular, but then as you say ‘now what?’ Unless you plan on pushing some product or scam onto your followers, its all a bit pointless if they’re not interested in what you have to say.

    It’s highly likely they’ll unfollow you soon enough and in the meantime you end up with a feed of irrelevant stuff too, obscuring the tweets that are actually useful to you.

    It kinda equates to buying dirt cheap untargeted traffic to your website. I could do this in the recruitment industry, but what would be the point if the quality is poor and they have no real interest in what I’m offering.

  2. I’ve noticed an influx of new followers that have little use for my Tweedle.

    I just don’t follow them.

    There are any number of tools you can go to for suggestions and by just keeping on clicking you can build up a nice stable.

    Dixon’s right, quality over quantity – some people really are starting to believe their own hype – especially those folks who say in their bios that they are an “internet guru”……………….DELETE!

  3. Thanks for the vote on the new site Gary! I’m pretty pleased. It does have some things that are wrong with it… like text in an image! UGH! and after such a clever tag-line too! I’ll have to get that fixed.

    Of course, I used the word “Scam” a little liberally here, but I’m sure that – as you say Mel – people are getting Hoisted up their own Patard. OK – you didn’t say that… what you said made more sense…

    >>>folks who say in their bios that they are an “internet guru”……………….DELETE!<<< LOL. No risk of that from me. If anyone out there is under the illusion that I know more than them, they just haven't thought enough for themselves yet. (But then, I'm probably older and thus had more time to think than most)

  4. That all makes sense. I only follow a handful of people I don’t know personally although I’ll admit to a momentary frisson when I reached 100 followers.

    We should be able to work out a much more accurate “RealTwit” value, for example, taking yours:

    500 followers / 309 following = 1.62RT
    mine is:
    119 followers / 79 following = 1.51RT (damnit you’re still more popular 🙂

    BUT we’d also need to factor in various other activities:
    +How many general posts you make in a day
    +How many people reply to you
    +How many people you reply to

    Mash those weightings together using that statistics thingy you’ve got and let me know the completed RealTwit formula so you can prove you REALLY are more popular than me 😉

    Having lots of friends in Facebook is also another “vanity counter” but it does get you access to their pics in exchange for your friendship.

    Hmmn, I wonder what I’m avoiding doing instead of this post?

    Agree, your blog design is looking great.

  5. Darren Rowse from Pro Blogger started following me today. I felt quite honoured until I saw that he was following 9000 other people. I don’t see much point in following back, not did I see what value he was gaining from following 9000 people.

  6. Just started on Twitter at the SES London conference. Twitter is just starting up in Denmark, and it took the SES conference and Dave Snyder to convience me about this.

    There are two types of twitteres … nosy people and interesting people. If you only have few people following you and follow a lot of people – then you are nosy. If a lot of people follow you, and you only follow a few then you are interesting.

    Well – i’m a nosy Twitter

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