I was doing research on another article (ironically, an article on authenticity) when I came across a site called fanmenow.com I’m purposely not linking to it because I feel a little dirty. It’s a site that allows you to ‘buy’ fans and followers. Out of curiosity, I bought 1,000 Twitter followers for $12. I figured it’s a low investment to see what would happen.
Well, it happened just like they promised. I started getting notifications that all of these ‘people’ started following me. I had to turn off the notifications for new followers. For a little while there, I felt like a celebrity!
So now I have 1,000 robots following me in addition to the 400+ real people that were following me. What’s the point? The point is actually quite interesting. It really worked like it’s designed to.
One of the bits of advice I give to my colleagues just getting started on LinkedIn is that you have to have at least 50 connections on LinkedIn before publicizing your profile to the people you really want to be connected to. 50 seems to be the magic number when someone takes you seriously as a LinkedIn member. Apparently, something similar happens on Twitter. The content of my feed hasn’t changed much. However, I’m getting more and more ‘legitimate’ followers on Twitter. I’m not able to prove this, but I have to think that when someone looks me up on Twitter and see I have over a thousand followers, that I must be saying something very interesting and want to join the crowd.
So for all my crowing about ‘Authenticity being the key’, I’m sad to say there is another factor. That factor is social proof. People like to do things they see lots of other people doing. It saddens me to say that buying followers seems to work, at least in the short term. I suppose it’s like attending an event. If you see that there a LOTS of tickets available, you may be less likely to attend yourself. But if you see that thousands have already bought tickets, you feel that you better buy or you’ll miss the bandwagon.
Do I recommend this approach? No! It really doesn’t take much for anyone to see that a large portion of my followers aren’t real people. But it was a very interesting experiment. Now… what do I do with all those bot followers?
UPDATE: The folks at Twitter are smarter than I gave them credit for… about a week after I did this, a note was posted to the FanMeNow site saying the Twitter went through and did a sweep of all the robot followers. My fake followers are gone. I’m now back down to reality. It was nice being ‘famous’ for a while. Oh… and no refunds.