How to Fake Friends and Appear to Influence People

Crowd of robotsLots of books, articles, and secret systems will tell you how to gain followers on Twitter, but I’m going to tell you a secret you might not have heard. You’ve heard how something is a “dime a dozen,” right? Twitter followers are more like “twenny a penny”… literally.

I see people with 10,000 followers, and they’re following 10,000 people. This is based on the recommendation of building your numbers by following people who will follow you back out of a sense of obligation. You follow thousands of people to get thousands of followers, and now you all have feeds polluted with thousands of people whose tweets you don’t even care about. You’re not following them because they’re talking about stuff you care about. You’re doing it to be polite or to get a follow-back. It’s highly unlikely you’re engaging with their tweets (or even seeing them) and vice versa.

So how is that real-but-disengaged follower different from a completely fake account that followed you because you paid the hacker who owns it? First, you don’t have to go to the trouble of following it. And second, you’ll find people selling followers in lots of 5-10 thousand for $5 on Fiverr. You can get ten thousand followers in a day or two for less than the price of a Happy Meal.

What happens when your follower count jumps by 40,000+ in the course of 48 hours? I decided to find out.

First effect: It upped my Klout score from 57 to 58. Whoop dee do.

Second effect: someone asked me the other day “who are you that you have 40 thousand followers.” Translated: “I’ve never heard of you before, so how are you this popular?” So I did appear to be more influential than I am.

I had 196 followers on my personal account before I tried my experiment. I had about 3 or 4 friends I could expect to consistently engage with my content (like, retweet, or reply within a day or two), and a couple dozen more who regularly engaged with it (might go a few days or weeks between observable engagement, but more than once).

Once I bought 40,000+ followers, none of that changed. You don’t get engagement from cheap fake followers. If you’re just buying fake followers, they won’t also fake engaging with your content. You’ve only paid for follows, not likes or retweets. But I did see ads for up to 900+ likes/retweets for $5. So if you were willing to pay a few hundred dollars, you could orchestrate fake engagement to match your fake follower count.

Do I feel that buying followers was unethical? If I was boasting about my follower count as if I’d “earned” it and was pretending all these people engaged with my content, I would consider it highly unethical (though not unusual). But at worst I look a bit more influential than I actually am, and if anyone asks, I’m happy to burst their bubble of admiration. And since the big jump, it seems that Twitter’s been catching and removing these fake followers at a pace of around 200 a day, so I figure I’ll be back to under 1k in a few months.

My advice if you want to win at Twitter: follow people who tweet about things that matter to you (public figures, thought leaders in your industry, friends), and just make sure that everyone who might think what you say matters knows your Twitter handle (mine is @YiddishNinja). The numbers will grow. You might feel bad that you don’t have 30,000 followers yet, but think about why you want them. If you want to have actual influence, you have to actually find people who want to read what you have to say. If you simply want to appear influential, the illusion of influence can be had for a price… and that price starts at $5.

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