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Social media marketing pros get a bad reputation sometimes because of the practices of a bad few. Despite many case studies demonstrating the value of social media, some companies still do not want to participate.
With some agencies engaging in shady practices though, it’s really no wonder that a number of businesses still hesitate to establish a social media presence.
One such bad practice is buying followers on Twitter. A quick Google search on “buy Twitter followers” reveals that this practice happens more frequently than marketing folks might want to admit. Even politicians like Newt Gingrich have been accused of buying Twitter followers.
You shouldn’t buy Twitter followers — and if your agency is doing it, then you are getting ripped off. Here some things you should look out for to determine if your agency is engaging in this shady practice.
Hint #1: Dramatic increase in your number of followers.
Unless you’re a celebrity like Justin Bieber or a well-established brand like Zappos, getting thousands of followers simply won’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop a community; it takes time to gain people’s trust.
Hint #2: You have a bunch of followers with zero tweets.
This is a dead giveaway. Look for followers with the following characteristics:
- Zero tweets
- Vague biographies
- Following thousands of people but with almost no followers
These followers usually suspiciously follow you one after another, so look for big groupings such as this:
Hint #3: Your increase in followers does not result to more engagement.
When you have fake followers, your messages land on deaf ears. If there isn’t a real person behind the person following you, then of course you can’t expect replies, mentions and re-tweets.
Depending on your business, you can also look at the number of traffic referrals from social media to your website (or blog, or landing pages, etc.). If the dramatic increase in followers is legitimate, there should be at least some lift in visitors coming from Twitter.
Hint #4: Fakers app reveals that you have a significant number of fake followers.
An app created by Status People scans your followers and tells you how many are fake, inactive and ‘good’. The Fakers app website explains how they come up with the numbers:
We take a sample of your follower data. Up to 1,000 records depending on how ‘popular’ you are and assess them against a number of simple spam criteria.
On a very basic level spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets. But in contrast they tend to follow a lot of other accounts.
The site also claims that for accounts with less 100,000 followers, the results should be fairly accurate. If you’re above that threshold, Fakes app “will still provide good insight but may better reflect your current follower activity rather than your whole follower base.”
I’ve tested this free app using several accounts, and as far as I can tell, it’s fairly accurate. Give it a try at:
How to avoid hiring social media agencies that buy followers:
So how do you make sure that the PR or social media agency you’re about to hire doesn’t buy followers? I recommend taking these steps before hiring an agency:
1. Ask them about it.
Be direct and ask potential agencies if they buy followers. They can lie, of course, but confronting them about this issue might give you some hints about their practices.
2. Demand details.
Get them to outline some specific actions that they will take to enhance your social media presence. Too much emphasis on growing your followers might be a red flag.
3. Be clear that it’s not about the number of followers.
Don’t make the social media agency promise you a certain number of followers by a certain date. Your goal in using social media is to enhance your business or a part of it (e.g. marketing) — your number of followers means nothing unless you’re connecting to real people.
During the selection process, ask about the metrics that they will give you. Ask the agency to explain how this relates to your business. At the very least, the agency should provide some engagement numbers — replies, mentions, and clicks, to name a few examples — in addition to number of followers.
How do you feel about agencies buying Twitter followers on behalf of clients? And what should clients look out for to make sure their agency isn’t simply buying followers?