Bots are not your friends: A Twitter followers analysis

My friend Harrison, who like me is an editor at The Pitt News, added a couple key words to his Twitter profile a few weeks ago, and got unexpected results. He added the terms “Managing” and “Web Production,” and gained about 800 followers literally overnight.

Most of these accounts are either bots or “follow-for-follow” accounts most of us on Twitter have probably seen or experienced, where they follow and are followed by a high volume of users. Gradually, when these accounts saw Harrison was not going to follow them back, they began to rescind their attention to him.

In addition to adding keywords like this, it is even possible to simply buy followers for your account — for pride or business reasons, this is a sustained, tangible phenomenon. But still, the question remains for people interested in quickly increasing their follower count in any way possible: Are there downsides to manufacturing Twitter followers?

After all, as Silicon Valley marketing executive Guy Kawasaki said, “There are two kinds of people on social networks: Those who want more followers and those who are lying.”

So some will say, “yes, give me more followers, any way possible.”

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For anyone looking to find a job in the digital space, and particularly in social media, demonstrating the ability to create social media buzz by having a large number of personal followers would theoretically look great to potential employers. And it’s easy: a cursory Google search, and I am one click away from buying 1,000 Twitter followers for just $15. In the long run, it seems like a great investment.

As Forbes’ Chereen Zaki said, “In a digital world, where not only individuals, but brands are pushing their way to the top — influence is key. You are that much more likely to get a job when your employer checks your Twitter to find thousands of followers retweeting you.”

But employers can easily detect this, and to them, it is essentially a form of lying.

There are plenty of apps, like Social Baker’s FakeFollowers application, that can detect the ratio of spam or bot accounts with a profile. If that ratio runs over about 20%, that is often the cutoff for employers to view yours as a shady and dishonest account. Analytics would not be on your side, as well. TwitterCounter.com provides recent follower statistics, and these pay sites give followers all at once, so the data spike would come off as an extreme irregularity.

Besides, social media professionals are not interested in the sheer quantity of followers you can get: it is all about the interaction and conversation you can start as a brand. Social media blogger Ian Anderson Gray summarized it best, saying, “You aren’t getting people who are interested or willing to engage with you. You are merely buying numbers.”

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That engagement will not come with nameless, faceless machines providing simple retweets and favorites — sorry, likes.

Social media professionals will be more interested with a grassroots, hard-working and effective plan for building a follower base from the ground up, not a simple shortcut. Let’s face it, if something this easy had no downsides, everyone would be doing it.

Because a strong Twitter presence is all about engagement, there are apps that actually do focus around helping on that end. ManageFlitter can help filter lists to provide suggestions for influential and relevant (and real) figures who are the most likely to follow back and actually engage with you in social media discourse.

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You can do this on your own, too. Search Twitter, find people in your field who successfully create dialogue, and note how they do it. Follow and tweet at these people, try it for yourself, and possibly the most important, be creative. The most effective way to stand out in such a crowded space it by being yourself, showing a personality, and not being afraid to accentuate it.

For Harrison, this onslaught happened through no fault of his own — he did not buy anything, and had no idea what would happen. It is still a cautionary tale of how the Twitterbot army can strike from nowhere.
After all, it’s better to have 100 dedicated and interactive followers than an army of 10,000 faceless, spam-driven entities. And employers know it, too.

 

Links:

iag.me/socialmedia/4-reasons-why-you-should-not-buy-followers

http://www.forbes.com/sites/chereenzaki/2013/03/26/paying-for-followers-may-cost-you-a-job/#c4c5babbc994

Images from Giphy

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3 thoughts on “Bots are not your friends: A Twitter followers analysis

  1. This is a great post! I didn’t realize you could literally buy followers. I’ve been victim of getting many follower requests after tweeting about a specific topic, likely based on key words. Like you said, the amount of engagement is what’s really important. That goes for a business’ social media activity as well. Some businesses have a bunch of followers, but if the followers never interact with comments or even likes, then what’s the point? There needs to be a balance between increasing followers and increasing valuable engagement.

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  2. This is an excellent post. In fact, the idea of spam Twitter followers or bot followers has been very much on my mind lately. I realised recently that a third of my Twitter followers are definitely fake followers. I have been trying to up my Twitter game this semester and I suppose on one hand it’s working because I had no spam followers before, but like you said they aren’t the followers I want. I appreciate your advice on how to gain genuine followers. My focus has been just to post more, but I’m going to take what you said into account to try and post in a way that encourages interaction. Thanks!

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  3. Awesome post! I had heard of the follow bots before, but I never considered the implications of using one in a professional use. I can proudly say that I have never used a bot (mostly because I’m cheap and don’t want to spend money, but also because I really never cared much to have a ton of followers). Like how you say in your post, I think that the most important aspect of Twitter is your engagements with your followers and conversations you have. Afterall, what’s the point of having a Twitter without having any REAL person engage with what you say. You’re basically speaking to a wall at that point. And from a potential employers standpoint, seeing that you have over a thousand followers and not a lot of them interact with your posts in any way sends a pretty negative image. I’m definitely going to look into the ManageFlitter sort of app to find more people to follow for my professional Twitter.

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