Twitter’s black market for fake followers continues to grow..
Have you ever wondered how much can 1000 followers on Twitter cost? There are sites that sell Twitter followers, retweets and likes where anyone can purchase packages starting at $5 dollars while a package of 50 Retweets can have a cost of around $10 dollars.
With an estimate of 500 million users Twitter has become one of the most successful startup companies of all time by market capitalization, revenue, growth and cultural impact. However, it is estimated that 20 million users on this social media network are fake, representing 4% of the total users.
The above figures are part of a study by two Italian researchers, Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli as published in one of the New York Times blogs. The researchers used several of the best sites to purchase Twitter followers. Something similar had been done in the middle of last year by Barracuda Labs, which to date remains one of the most comprehensive reports on the subject.
Stroppa and Micheli found that, to a large extent, the problem originates with the ease of been able to create fake accounts on Twitter. One seller said they owned a software that could be able to create 100,000 new Twitter followers in 5 days. The same seller stated that even “a kid could avoid Twitter’s defenses”.
Fake Twitter accounts vary widely in sophistication, from the most primitive, with no profile image, no biography description and only a few followers or activity, to accounts that could pass for authentic with a detailed Bio, a couple of thousand followers and with a live stream of recent tweets. The black market of Twitter followers has indeed grown without precedents. It has become a very advanced game and the earnings in this industry are starting to rise rapidly. Merchants sellers can earn up to $3 to $ 30 per account and it is estimated that this business could be reporting earnings from 40 to 360 million dollars annually.
Why doesn’t Twitter do anything?
Although last year Twitter sued 5 companies creators of spamming software, including TweetAdder, this clearly is not enough. Their statement regarding fake Twitter followers is that its not that easy to detect these false accounts, since 40% of the users only reads and writes little or nothing. A study from 2013 analyzed 36 million accounts and revealed that:
- 25% of Twitter’s users have never sent a tweet.
- 6% of the users don’t have any followers.
- 10% of Twitter’s registered users don’t follow anyone.
- 60% of the users don’t have a Bio description.
I’m not sure how much more difficult this bullet points statements can make it for Twitter to delete these fake accounts since the patterns of use of inactive users are very different than the bots or false accounts. Without a doubt its certainly more complicated to review an account activity with account facts, but Twitter would do well to devote more time into this problem, because it is something that can become a serious problem. There are tools to verify this in our accounts, but a solution at the level of the entire platform is needed ASAP.
In the meantime, the problem with Twitter followers, retweets and likes for sale remains and it doesn’t seem like is going to disappear soon. As long as there are “professionals” and unscrupulous agencies to fool their customers, and worse still, as long as there are brands and companies that only use the number of followers as the only metric of success, traffickers of followers will continue to see their business grow like never before.
What do you think of Twitter’s black market of followers? Would you buy Twitter followers for your business?