by Kay Mathews
The practice of buying Twitter followers has been around for about as long as Twitter has been in existence. As you’d expect, it continues today. Twitter follower providers gladly sell large blocks of followers to individuals and businesses at fairly cheap prices, and more is always better, right? Not necessarily.
When asked for his advice to B2B companies considering the purchase of Twitter followers, Joe Pulizzi, Founder and Executive Director of the Content Marketing Institute , replied, “NEVER buy Twitter followers…ever…only bad things will happen.”
Stephanie Schwab, CEO of Crackerjack Marketing, has a similar view. “I do see a downside to fly-by-night ‘5,000 followers for $5’ programs, as filling your Twitter followers list with egg avatars and a mishmash of overseas or questionable accounts could damage a brand’s reputation,” said Schwab.
Schwab, whose Chicago-based company works with B2B firms and other clients to provide content marketing and social media marketing services that help brands connect and communicate with customers, offered this example of negative consequences that can happen when Twitter followers are purchased from sketchy providers.
I once consulted with an advertising agency that was hoping to open their own social media department. The future head of that department had tens of thousands of Twitter followers, and the agency team thought he would look like a major expert because of his Twitter following. A quick glance at his account showed that he had only tweeted a handful of times, and that his followers were all of terrible quality – eggs, 16 year old girls, or non-English speakers. His Twitter account made him look like the opposite of an expert! We recommended that he close his account and start over, properly, which he did.
There are, in fact, real “dangers” associated with buying fake followers. “Fake followers can incur phishing, hacking and even infecting real fans with spammy links,” reports The Next Web.
Twitter users can spot those who employ fly-by-night Twitter follower providers by using StatusPeople’s Fake Follower Check.
Who, or what, are the Twitter followers that can be purchased?
When light is cast on “fly-by-night” services, much is revealed about the Twitter followers who are purchased. As a New York Times article reports, followers can be “created by spamming computers — often referred to as ‘bots.’” Fake followers often have egg avatars (the default avatar that Twitter gives to every new account), but at least one provider offers “no egg accounts.” Optorank also notes “that generated Twitter followers are non-active users and are strictly for number boosting purposes, these accounts will not retweet your tweets…and are not stable for long periods of time.”
Unstable followers – fake follower accounts – can be purchased one day and then disappear shortly thereafter. One reason for this, as Slate contributor Seth Stevenson disclosed, is that Twitter can zap fake Twitter followers “into oblivion.” The social network’s “The Twitter Rules” has an “Abuse and Spam” section that covers this with a specific admonition for “Selling or purchasing account interactions (such as selling or purchasing followers, Retweets, favorites, etc.).”
Can legitimate Twitter followers be “bought”?
According to Schwab, the answer to that question is yes, and the way to do it is through Twitter Ads. Schwab stated, “Over the past few years, we’ve successfully used Twitter Ads to help jump-start our client’s Twitter presences and bring their follower count to a reasonable entry level, so that they have credibility at first glance. Twitter Ads allows for very specific targeting, so we know that the followers we’re gaining are likely interested in our client’s topics, and they’re not random Justin Bieber fans from Malaysia.”
Schwab notes that there are two kinds of Twitter Ads – Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts. For B2B companies wanting to “buy” legitimate Twitter followers, Schwab offers this advice:
I highly recommend that anyone with a new or slow-growing account devote a small budget ($500 is ideal, more if possible) to testing Twitter Ads for acquisition, to see how quickly their account can grow and with what types of people. A good place to start is to use the Ads system to target users who are already following competitors or similar brands; that’s very easy to set up and can yield great results.
The bottom line
B2B companies should “never” buy Twitter followers from sketchy, fly-by-night providers. Doing so can bring your credibility into question, hamper your ability to build an organic social media following, and invite security threats.
In contrast, using Twitter Ads to build the number of followers you have is easy, affordable, more secure, and, most importantly, credible. Prior to doing so, however, Schwab suggests that B2B companies “Start tweeting regularly, multiple times per day, before you begin acquiring followers, and keep them engaged with fresh, constant content daily.” After all, like with SEO, there’s no magic pill to online success other than providing your audience with strong engaging content.
Photo of Stephanie Schwab via Ms. Schwab