With companies caught up in the importance of social media (see all the buzz about Oreo’s tweet in response to the power outage during the Super Bowl), a number of services now sell companies and individuals anywhere from dozens to tens of thousands of Twitter followers.
Two Italian researchers investigating the market for fake Twitter followers estimate that there are 20 million fake follower accounts. Companies can also purchase retweets.
In response, Social Bakers, a social media analytics platform, has launched a Fake Followers tool. The idea is to help identify the true reach of a Twitter following by weeding out the fake or inactive followers. The methodology of the tool, which is in Beta, is described below:
If tools like this become common, or even integrated directly into Twitter, services selling Twitter followers and retweets will need to increase the quality of their fake accounts. They will need to either improve their methods of creating fake accounts, hire people to make convincing fake accounts, or pay real Twitter users to follow people and retweet on their behalf.
This will raise the cost of buying fake followers. Hopefully these basic defenses against fake accounts will make the cost prohibitively high before we drown in a swarm of algorithmically generated tweets.