So, yesterday I posted a certain rather long blog rant as a result of a bit of Intertube detective work prompted by a client question.
The short version: we discovered a site that blatantly games social networks, offering to sell Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and other social “audiences” in bulk. I knew such services existed, but this was my first direct encounter with such a raw and gaping cluewound.
A key takeaway – the evidence of our research suggests that while one can buy large follower counts, the majority of the followers you receive are “low value” phantom accounts. Accounts with tiny follower counts, very low activity, and a pattern of spam-like behaviour.
The coda to my rant, alas, is that in the hours since I posted it I’ve seen a most unusual spike in my own Twitter follower count. More than 700 new followers in less than 12 hours. My usual rate is around 3-4 net new followers per day.
From a quick analysis, it’s evident that around 90% of these new followers are, guess what: phantoms. Spammy and fake accounts set up, presumably, as part of the same pyramid scheme my own post set out to expose. All of the suspect accounts are also following the very service I was outing in the first place.
This is either entirely accidental, or – I fear – a bizarre, calculated form of retribution from the very scammers I called out. Ugh.
I have, it seems, been hoist with my own petard.
I suppose one part of me ought to be celebrating this spike in followers, but in truth it just makes me quietly sad.