Marketing Strategist Lynn Serafinn explains why buying Twitter followers is a BAD idea, how to tell if you’ve been scammed, and how to clean up your account.
UPDATE 25 May 2015:
Since I wrote this article, Twitter has changed its API access to Tweet Adder, and at the current moment TWEET ADDER IS NOT FUNCTIONING (and no sales are being taken until this issue is resolved). If you use this product, I encourage you to follow updates about this issue on their user forum at Tweet Adder Announcements. I will put an update here if I hear of any changes.
One of the things I work on with clients is online platform building. In my view, an integral part of any online platform is the seamless integration of social media and blogging. I believe giving due care and attention to these two ‘layers’ of your marketing funnel is crucial in developing an ongoing relationship with your audience, which ultimately results in generating business over the long-term.
Unfortunately, many clients who come to me for help have yet to learn how to make this dance between blogging and social media work. Many have been exposed to the philosophies of ‘old school’ Internet marketers, who encourage aggressive marketing strategies that are based upon numbers, manipulation and formulae rather than on people, conversation and relationships. Still more have become victims of marketing scams, such as promises of a guaranteed number of ‘followers’ on their list or social media accounts…for a fee, of course.
The Truth about Numbers
There are many so-called ‘marketers’ (although calling them ‘marketers’ is tantamount to believing the proverbial ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is actually a sheep) on both Twitter and Facebook who claim they have a genuine database of people who are ready and willing to follow, like and love you. They will tell you they have all kinds of advanced algorithms and blah, blah, blah, designed to target valid leads to you. They promise you that $250 (or whatever amount) will get you, say, 1,000 new followers, and $500 will get you more.
Now, I’ve been doing book and product launches for the past 8 years and I can tell you unequivocally that there is no way on the face of the earth that you can PROMISE a fixed number of people will opt in to any offer – free or not. There are simply too many variables. Some of these include things in which I have little or no influence, such as company branding and the rapport between the client and their audience. If the client’s branding and rapport are not cohesive, consistent, qualitative and engaging, it is unlikely any kind of marketing campaign is likely to ‘inspire’ others to follow them. While I might set a target to get 5,000 new followers on my client’s social networks or mailing list, there is no way anyone can ‘guarantee’ this will happen…
…unless those followers are actually FAKE.
Anatomy of a Marketing Scam
‘But,’ you stammer, ‘I don’t understand. I paid my money and within a week I had 3,000 new Twitter followers. They look like real people. What are you talking about?!’
When we’re just starting out in business, many (if not most) of us feel helpless about ‘getting the word out’. We just don’t know where to start. How do we get people to follow us on social media? How do we get them to read our blog? How do we get business from this? It’s daunting.
Because we’re so overwhelmed, we look for solutions that can help us go from ground zero to…well…SOMETHING – but we’re not sure what that ‘something’ is. People tell us we need to get Twitter followers; but even if we know how to do that, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do with them after we’ve got them.
Unfortunately, there are many opportunistic people out there in cyberspace who prey upon unsuspecting small business owners who are caught in this vortex of ‘I don’t know’. Some of those opportunistic people run scams thinly disguised as marketing services. They set up several thousand bogus Twitter or Facebook accounts, hiding behind different proxy servers (notionally, so Twitter or Facebook don’t realise they’re fake accounts). They might have real sounding names. They might even have headshots. But make no mistake: there’s nobody there except the scammer. The scammer who sold you their ‘marketing product’ will, for a fee, make all these bogus accounts follow you on Twitter or ‘like’ your Facebook page (that is, of course, if they don’t run off with your money without even bothering to give you your fake followers).
Suddenly, you have thousands of followers. You’re starting to feel more confident about the future. You think people are really interested in you and what you are doing in your business.
The problem is, these people don’t exist.
How You Can Tell Your Followers Are Fake
I recently started working with a new client who had about 3,500 followers on Twitter. However, she was following only about 400 of them. I told her I wanted to look at this imbalance, because it’s a good idea to follow back your legitimate followers, so you can start to build rapport. So, I went into her account using Tweet Adder 4.0, which our team runs on a private server to support our clients’ Twitter accounts.
After I had a good look at her account, I said to her, ‘Can I ask you, at some point in the past, perhaps in or before 2011, did you BUY a batch of Twitter followers?’
She was surprised at my question. She said, ‘Well, I purchased a Twitter marketing package from someone at that time.’
I explained to her that this was no ‘marketing’ service, and that she had been scammed. Of course, she was upset by this news. She was also bewildered as to how I could see this in her account.
Here’s how I discovered this:
- When I set up her Twitter account, Tweet Adder, flagged over 3,000 ‘follow backs. That meant she was not following back 3,000 people who were following her. Of course, I could already see that just by looking at her numbers, but Tweet Adder enabled me to analyse these figures to understand more about them.
- First, I sorted these ‘follow backs’ using a filter in Tweet Adder called ‘Last Tweet Date’. In my view, there’s no point in following someone who is inactive on Twitter.
- Then, I applied other filters to see which accounts hadn’t been active in a LONG time. I set the number of days to 300 days (> 300). I discovered that nearly all of her followers hadn’t been on Twitter since 2010 or 2011.
- Finally, I used other filters to see how many followers these people had versus how many people they were following. I also looked at how many Tweets they had sent out. What I found was something that looked like this (I’ve smudged out the names of the Twitter accounts):
This screenshot was taken TODAY. You can see that:
- There were 601 accounts following my client who hadn’t Tweeted in about a year (these ones hadn’t Tweeted since 2010).
- All of the accounts had only ever sent ONE Tweet.
- All are following hundreds of people, but nobody (save a few people who didn’t know any better) is following them back
- All of these accounts originate in non-English speaking countries. In fact, all of the clearly purchased ‘followers’ were from Asia (Indonesia, mostly) and South America. Even if they were legitimate followers, what would my client gain from following accounts she couldn’t understand?
Had I thought to take a screenshot when I first started working with her, you would see that far more than 601 accounts showed up when I first performed this search. However, we’ve slowly been getting rid of these bogus followers over the past month (I’ll show you how to do this, in a minute).
Why It’s Pointless to Retain Fake Followers
You might wonder what the big deal is. So you bought a bunch of fake followers in the past and now you’re stuck with them. ‘What’s the harm? Who cares? Let them be.’
I believe it’s important to get rid of fake followers. As a marketer, I want to KNOW what’s actually going on. I want to know what’s working and what’s not. If I THINK I have 3,500 followers, but I’m getting virtually no ‘action’ from them, something is seriously wrong.
What do I mean by ‘action’? ReTweeting/sharing my Tweets is action. Clicking on my links and visiting my blog. Talking to me. If none of my followers are doing this, either there’s something wrong with my followers or there’s something wrong with ME. Maybe my blog content is rubbish. Maybe my Tweets are confusing. Maybe I’m inconsistent in my communication. Maybe I’m writing for the wrong audience. But if I do all I can to ensure I’m not the problem and I still don’t get any action from my followers, I have to look at how and from where my followers are finding me. My analysis will be useless unless I first cull so-called followers who do nothing to serve my business.
The other reason it’s valuable to exile your fake followers is so your REAL followers (especially those thinking about connecting with you) take you seriously. If they check out your followers and see thousands of inactive (and obviously fake) accounts, what does that say about you? If, however, they see thousands of genuine Twitter users actively choosing to follow you, they get a far more positive impression about you.
Blocking Your Fake Followers
Hopefully, you’re now considering getting rid of all those fake followers you bought in the past, even if it means seeing your numbers go down. I understand it might be scary; watching your numbers decline for the sake of truth and transparency is a brave thing to do.
Now you might be wondering something else: ‘How do I MAKE people unfollow me on Twitter?’ The answer is: you use a feature on Twitter called ‘Blocking’.
When you block a Twitter account, it means they cannot follow you, message you or tag you, and you can’t follow them, etc. In other words, you cannot communicate with each other in any way on Twitter. If that sounds pretty extreme, it’s because it is. That’s why blocking really should only be used in specific circumstances, such as:
- Aggressive or abusive users
- Fake accounts
Back in the screenshot of Tweet Adder above, you’ll see that next to each account in the ‘Follow Back’ menu, there are three options: Follow Back, Black List and Block.
‘Follow Back’ is obvious. If you click it, Tweet Adder will follow back that person.
‘Black List’ is less extreme than blocking, and it only relates to Tweet Adder, not Twitter. When you ‘black list’ someone, it means you CHOOSE not to follow them, but you’re ok with allowing them to follow you. I tend to use black list when someone seems like a genuine follower, but I’m not particularly interested in what they’re Tweeting about (like if they do a lot of advertising, but they’re not directly spamming me). When you put someone on your black list, Tweet Adder will not ask you to follow them back again in the future (unless you take them off the black list). However, they will still be following you, unless they decide to unfollow you of their own accord.
If, by using the filters I described earlier in this article, you have been able to identify your fake followers, you can start to ‘block’ them simply by pressing the ‘block’ button. They will cease to follow you, and you will never see or hear from them again.
CAVEAT: Don’t go blocking accounts too quickly, as Twitter will see it as ‘aggressive’ activity and you could end up getting your account suspended. It’s best to do it gradually over a period of days, weeks or even months, if you have a lot of bogus followers.
If you’ve read my book Tweep-e-licious!, you might remember Tip #41: Don’t Be Tempted by Twitter Growth Scams. Today, I’ve given you some good reasons why NOT to get hoodwinked by them (apart from the obvious waste of money), as well as some tips on how to undo the damage if this happens to you. To me, marketing is only effective when you’re not playing in the dark. Getting rid of bogus followers helps you become more able to see what’s working and what’s not, in your social media marketing.
If you’d like to check out Tweep-e-licious!, you can find it at http://tweepelicious.com. There you can also get access to a 90-minute Twitter audio class I recorded some time ago (no purchase necessary, but you will have to sign up using your email address to get access).
AND…if you’re at a point in your ethical business where you’d like to work closely with a marketing strategist (and her team) who can help you grow an online audience of followers who GENUINELY know, love and appreciate what you do, give me a shout via the contact form on this site to set up a 30-minute Skype chat. We offer platform building services (including Twitter support), product development, copywriting, eBook development and many other valuable services for service-oriented independent business owners and non-fiction authors. You can read about our services HERE.
21 April 2015
Transparency: In this article, I have used my affiliate link to the Tweet Adder website. I do make a small commission if people purchase the product using this link.
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.