Recently, Twitter seems to have timed its baffling all-white color scheme mandate with @KatyPerry’s breaking of the 100 million follower record on Twitter, a natural win-win for both Twitter and Katy Perry. And while I personally do not bear any grudges against Katy Perry or her music (although I do confess I’m no pop star fan, generally), I admit I did scoff a bit, knowing how difficult that really would be to achieve logistically and historically, and how fake followers are a rampant reality of Twitter. Everybody has…at least some clinging on to their profile…right? Few consider what they’re really doing there, or how they actually got there, or what the motivation for spontaneous fake followers would be. So I did a little easy digging…
Smell like fake followers at the @KatyPerry Coral?
First, I took a peek at her followers and came up with pages upon pages of all-blank profiles with stupid-sounding non-names. I post redundant images of blank profiles with odd-sounding names that aren’t actually even names. The first image above can illustrate the idea. So can a simple look through her follower profile.
Then, later, I took a look at her profile using an industry tool, and viola! Not only is her account hoarding lots of fake followers…it’s literally reading at well over half fake followers!
I guess Twitter does not have the proper motivation to police fake Twitter profile followers, and that is understandable, given their business model is in large part to create an atmosphere in which advertisers can advertise to followers of famous/popular profiles, based on reported users in that ecosystem. And again, everybody has some blank profiles following them. The only problem is that the Twitter ad ecosystem is incredibly inflated as a result of 1 million, let alone 60 million fake followers.
Did anyone at Twitter really not balk at “100M” followers? Or see any red flags? We’re not talking 62, 620 or 6,200, but 62 million fake Twitter profiles that Twitter itself did not think was a problem–all on one profile, and all potential billable impressions/clicks within Twitter’s (ie., Google’s) PayPerClick ecosystem?!
Yes, that is 37% real…and thus 63% fake :-(.
Where is the fake follower line in the sand?
We have to draw a line somewhere. And even just 10,000 fake followers for a single profile seems well past that line. That’s not unintentional fake followers doing their own weird things for unfathomable reasons (ie., click-fraud), that’s uber-intentionally fraudulent marketing on a truly massive scale and it really ought not to happen at all, let alone go on undetected on the profiles of high-profile, internationally-famous public figures! And quite obviously, 60 million fake followers is well, well beyond that line.
The real question is, is there even blame to be assigned for the mysterious foreign teams overseas? Or is the ecosystem even more complex than that? Are their sellers for fake profiles to such teams? With ample stockpiles of profiles, just sitting in some proverbial cyber cooler, waiting for such occasions? I leave it for Batman, Luke Cage, Daredevil or whatever Marvel superhero is able to supersleuth their way through to the end of such mysteries. My own all-too-human powers stop sadly short in awe of the esoteric misty vapors that surround such a vast black market ecosystem.
I’m sure Katy Perry did not know about any of this, and does not want to be a party to the resulting click-fraud any more than she wants to fake over half her following that leads up to a public celebration over such an apparent fraudulent online “happening”.
I also am completely willing to believe that her record company isn’t responsible for this, as well, or even their assigned marketing and publicity teams. More likely, one of those teams hired a Twitter team just for creating a following (mostly fake, in this case). I’m also sure, however, that Twitter and parent-company Google/Alphabet probably didn’t think this very public celebration of 62 million fake followers for a single popular public figure through (yes, that’s really the Twitter logo in the background of her profile header graphic).
Please no hate mail, Katy Perry fans. I find her and her sugary pop melodies as (reasonably…) likable as you do, I’m sure. She is vocally talented, good-looking, and likable as a person. I mean, I can really feel her, you know? Nor do I doubt that she fully deserves 100 million followers on or off Twitter. And much the same goes for her label and her immediate publicity teams. So once again, I’m not blaming the lovely and talented Katy Perry or those immediately surrounding her personally.
This article is simply about the social media marketing tactics that are usually performed by smaller, obscure social media marketing teams normally well outside of in-house operations of a larger agency and usually operating without sufficient agency or end-client oversight. In fact, most likely, even that small outfit outsourced to overseas teams for such a grandiose and (apparently) still impossible task. It is indeed a no-man’s land sort of a goal, isn’t? 100 million followers on any social media platform–has it ever been done? Well, certainly not on Twitter…
I’m also not blaming Google, Twitter or responsible marketers out there who simply don’t know what’s happening underneath the hood.
I will comment that those fake followers will either drop off rather suddenly, or very gradually begin to take on lifelike faces and seeming lives of their own. Either way, this is an issue for Google’s click-fraud department in my view. All those potential clickers…that don’t actually exist. That’s what this is all really about for me.
I won’t, however, comment on the #Twhiter theme matching Katy Perry’s new bleached-blonde makeover (which I admit is just as fetching as everything else about Katy Perry).
- Mark Brimm is founder and Marketing Director @ 123interface.com and author of AdWords University and The SEO Instinct.