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Putting a Pricetag on Friends (Part II): Fake it till you make it? | Bluefish Digital Marketing

In an earlier blog we discussed the estimated value of certain elements and actions (Follows/Fans/Likes/Retweets)  of social media to the brands that seek them.

These numbers don’t take into take account the recent trend of buying fake (or at the very least, dubious) followers, (like a lot of digitial marketing guru’s do) particularly on Twitter. This dirty little secret became somewhat known in the mainstream during the 2012 election when reporters uncovered that Mitt Romney’s rather paltry Twitter feed gained 117,000 followers overnight in July 2013. During the same election cycle, a previously unknown Democratic congressional candidate in Rhode Island, (Anthony Gemma) jumped into the race with 937,000 followers. Pretty impressive considering only half that many people live in his district at all. The incumbent he was running against had 3,500 followers.

And while neither candidate’s social media boon helped them win, plenty of successful people have fake followers as well. Estimates say that Barack Obama (42% of 29 Million), Bill Gates (50% of 10 million) and even Twitter CEO Dick Costelo (32% of his 1 million) have legions of fake followers.


The Street Value of a Follower

Recent research indicates that shows that going rate on the “street” for a follower is about 18 cents.  So 1,000 new fake followers will cost you around $18.00 (according to Barracuda Labs). The cost to get “High End” followers can range up to $30 each. How does one become high end? You follow other people and get followers yourself. (You can read more about how these fake personas are created in a great article here… ).

Even retweets can be bought now. The price range for five retweets a day can range from $9 per month to about $150 a month for 125 daily retweets.  It is rumored that celebrities with major Twitter juice, such as Kim Kardashian, are paid as much as 10k for one retweet. Although its estimated that 43% of her 7.5 million followers are fake (ED: one could argue the validity of any of her follower, but that’s another blog.)

According a recent NY Times article ( Twitter is much easier to fake friends because it Facebook requires that users use a real e-mail address, while Twitter does not. Instead, Twitter requires users to enter Captchas (those funny words that look like your doctor wrote them with his left hand) if they are trying to create multiple accounts from the same I.P. address. But like anything  of value, smart people have figured out a way to get around this.  The Times cited one follower “reseller” who had written software that could create up to 100,000 new accounts in five days. Moreover, in countries where labor is cheap and the labor pool is deep, people can be paid to type them in, in real time, for as little as a penny per Captcha.

Selling and reselling these followers (infinitely) at 18 cents apiece poses a significant upside and is reason enough to question any # of followers before you invest.