Fake Followers, Empty Calories

There’s a school of thought that believes you should pay about $14 to add 5,000 new Twitter followers to your account, so that your prospects and clients will think you’re more important and influential. Some folks believe you “need this” to have enough social media amplification to get started online. Ever since the mainstream news media started poking into the number of fake followers on Mitt Romney’s Twitter account, social media marketing directors have started to scrutinize the tactic’s legitimacy.

Austin Considine from The New York Times investigated one example, a stand-up comedian who spiked his Twitter follower count because that’s something that some talent bookers apparently look at these days. It’s a cynical move, assuming that those booking agents won’t bother to look deeper into your followers list, where they’ll see nothing but a bunch of eggs. And if they do find all of your eggs in that basket? You can kiss a good customer experience goodbye.

When Warren Johnson started studying real influence on Twitter in the United Kingdom, he discovered that your number of followers rarely denotes the real impact you’re having on your audience.

  • Engagement: How many questions do you ask on Twitter? Who answers? Do your online conversations drive your ideas home?
  • Audience Quality: Who’s actually in your audience? Customers, tastemakers, and thought leaders who can spread your message? Or bots and inactive accounts that bloat your stream?
  • Impact: How many of your followers click through the links you’re sharing? Who responds to a call to action, especially when you’re asking for support around something you sell? How much money have you earned because of your social media strategy?

If you’re adding value to social media through memorable, insightful content, you might not have a follower count that rivals Lady Gaga’s. However, you’ll have built an audience of real people who allow you to influence their lives, and you’ll save your paid media budget for more impactful campaigns.


Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram