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After reading many blogs about the topic of fake followers, I decided to do some investigating on the topic for myself. I found that the business of buying and selling fake Twitter followers is booming, according to a study by Barracuda Labs: Among the top 100 Google search results for the term "buy Twitter followers" are roughly 58 websites and 20 eBay sellers that offer various bundles of fake followers for sale. The average cost of 1,000 fake Twitter followers is just $18.

The study began in May 2012 when Barracuda Labs set up three Twitter accounts and purchased between 20,000-70,000 followers for each account on eBay and Google. After analyzing these followers’ profiles and tweets this is what Barracuda Found:

Dealers (those users who create fake accounts and sell followings):


  • There are 20 eBay sellers and 58 websites (within top 100 returns of searching “buy twitter followers” in Google) where people can buy (fake) followers

  • Twitter username is used to purchase, no authentication is required

  • The average price of buying 1000 followers is $18

  • A Dealer can control as many as ~150,000 or more Twitter followers (contact@kashifrox)

  • A Dealer can earn as much as $800/day for 7 weeks of selling followings if they can control  20,000 fake accounts (estimated on several random fake accounts reaching 2000 followings in 7 weeks and assume each following involved a minimum $20 purchase)

  • In addition to selling followings from these fake accounts, there are numerous opportunities for expansion into other services: selling tweets/re-tweets to earn additional profits

Abusers are defined as those users who buy followers (most of which are fake) in order to look more popular or to use the accounts for selling ads:

  • Roughly 11,283 Abusers were identified, each with an average following of 48,885.
  • 53% of Abusers have 4,000-26,000 followers.
  • 75% of Abusers display a URL in their profile, compared with 31% of Twitter users overall.

Fake Accounts are those created by dealers for selling followings or tweeting. In total, Barracuda found 72,212 unique fake accounts; among them:

  • 61% were less than three months old (as of April 16, 2012).
  • 55% had roughly 2,000 followers.

Barracuda also reviewed the 17% spike in a presidential candidate's Twitter following. You can read more about it here (its towards the bottom of the study).

What do you think of this study?

Views: 1426

Tags: fake, followers, of, statistics, twitter


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Comment by Kevin Frye on August 24, 2012 at 5:05am

Well said Gary May! If you look at this article you will see that Google targeted automotive for heavy spamming when it came to fake reviews, hence the recent issue with "lost Google reviews" across the country, which also hurt the dealers who were doing it the correct way. Fake reviews, fake likes, fake followers, how does any of it help our industry which constantly struggles with how the public perceives it?

Comment by Tom Gorham on August 23, 2012 at 9:00pm

Keith, I've done mine on StatusPeople four times the last few days and it's the same everytime.

92% Active, 8% Inactive, 0% Fake.  1808 Followers

Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 23, 2012 at 4:37pm

One of the things folks do now is to follow someone to get them to follow you back.  How can that be beneficial?  Two ways, at least.  First, you might get "natural" growth in followers if folks see that activity (or you get the "Golden Tickets" of some retweets!).  Second, if you are purchasing an automated service you can add a lot of followers by thousands of folks being added to your "follow" effort by a robot and thus greatly increasing your efforts at the reciprocal follow. And, then, you get an automated "unfollow" (which happens silently) of your targets that don't "follow" you--so that you can depend on them being alerted AGAIN each time you "follow" them again!

A Twisted Twitter FollowYou/FollowMe Version of SPAM!

I'm currently tracking a dealer doing this today.  So far, he's followed me and unfollowed me sixteen times with the robots trying to solicit a reciprocal follow from me.  Uck!

I do laugh, though, at how desperate folks get for that large audience.  It's likely just part of a service he bought (and constitutes a twitter TOS violation "aggressive follower churn", if he gets caught).

Oh.  And one of the things for brands is that they buy advertising through tweets.  Say, Aston Kutcher talks about his new Gucci wallet.  

Now, let's theoretically make you a well-known social media person.  Even in, say, automotive.  And you want to charge someone to use your Twitter account to talk about their item/brand/etc..  So you pump up your audience by buying these kinds of false account follows and also fake followers.  And, like the old Neilsen boxes for TV, you charge for the advertising vs. the size of the audience.  And maybe it's buried in the rest of your "use my social media".

It's the old political "votes from the graveyard" schtick.  

Is it just a theory?

Comment by Tom Gorham on August 23, 2012 at 2:32pm

Apologies to Ketty and Christine as to the authorship of the other post on this subject. 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 23, 2012 at 12:54pm

Gary May @imacsweb:  90% active twitter, 9% inactive, 1% fake.  3365 total followers.  Awesome!

Keith Shetterly @keithshetterly:  91% active, 5% inactive, 4% fake.  218 followers.  Not many, but very real.

That is using Micah's recommended tool

Anybody else care to share their stats?  Post them here!  :)

Comment by Gary May on August 23, 2012 at 12:26pm

Simply put, the business of typical social media services companies in (and around) automotive is disgusting. What's more is that dealers buy it every day without, apparently, thinking twice. I just emailed a dealer principal at a 2-store group in NC due to their horrible social media tactics and vendor (after the GSM hung up on me once hearing my company name as a courtesy call).

Whether dealers buy because the vendor has NADA or other conference parties, or because someone in a 20 Group has "success" with them, dealerships continue to buy garbage services or simply make the decision to go down the road of buying audiences. A sister store to one of our clients did this a year and a half ago, with a one-month spread of Facebook fans gong from 649 likes to over 18,000 likes.

Nothing easy yields positive results. business owners know this. It's just a shame that due to a myriad of excuses, there are now "too many balls to keep in the air".

The quicker that dealers and GMs recognize that automated service do NOTHING for their businesses, the faster they'll start thinking again and go down the right road.

Simply put, it takes, time, money and EFFORT to build results. Not a $1,000-4,000 a month social media company that never calls, you never see and publishes the same exact content on 800 other dealership social networks. Stop it.

Gary May


Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 23, 2012 at 11:51am

This reminds me of an old marketing adage: "There is NO right or wrong measured in marketing.   The only measurable are the results."

Comment by Steve Davern on August 23, 2012 at 10:18am

Buying fans or followers is stupid, unless you are judged by how many fans or followers you have accumulated. Quantity over quality misses the boat with social. It's all about your target audience.

Comment by Ketty Colom on August 23, 2012 at 9:52am

They want a bigger social media foot print, just like the NYT article noted, that's why you buy followers. 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 23, 2012 at 9:48am

Keith and Kevin - From what I have seen, people buying Fans, Followers, Subscribers, etc. are not doing so because they seek engagement with customers or clients... That is not the motivation.  In many cases it is a marketing services supplier doing so to satisfy their client's demands for "measurable performance" and is used to fuel their ROI validation.  In many other cases, it is used by consultants, authors, speakers, etc. to show that they are popular or relevant.  In still other cases, it is purely for ego fulfillment and bragging rights.  What I would REALLY like to see, because I know who they are, is for some other ADM members to describe how and why they purchased Fans-Followers-Subscribers.  Like many issues in the use of social media, unless you have done it, your opinion is exactly that... an opinion.  Those of us who have done it can report first hand the reasons why, how we did it and what the results were.  DON'T MAKE ME CALL YOU OUT!

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