Can you really buy your audience?

Success ultimately leads to one thing – criticism. Which is precisely what President Obama has been facing since the news spread that his enormous Twitter following of nearly 19 million users is comprised of 41% fake and 29% inactive accounts.

These figures were established by the new Fakers app which was built by Status People. The problem with this figure is that they openly admit that it isn’t accurate, yet news sources are more than happy to confidently report on the outcome of this app.

The Fakers app is ideal for users with under 100,000 followers; beyond that, the app can only gather data from a small sample, so the figures surrounding President Obama’s Twitter followers are absolute nonsense. It also doesn’t take into account that more popular followers will be more visible and therefore attract follower bots, through no fault of the owner.

Following the immense success of the Fakers App, Status People published a blog post warning  users about the dangers of buying Twitter followers. Simply put, you can now get caught, and when you do, it can be a major embarrassment. But on the other end of the spectrum, Buy Real Marketing, a company which promises to “provide businesses the online social proof they deserve” has hit back and defended Obama saying he’s likely a victim of spam bots. They’ve also defended those who choose to buy Twitter bots, saying they “offers businesses the chance to gain traction through their roster of social media service packages”.

The act of buying Twitter followers and Facebook fans has long been considered a no-no, but could it be the right move for a start-up in the early stages of operations? Or for an individual  hoping to find a larger platform for their blog?Anyone who has ever managed a social media profile from scratch will know how daunting gaining those first 100 followers can be, and then to 500, and then to 1000 and so on.

While it may be a useful short-term solution, any company or individual choosing to do this has to be aware of the ramifications. While it may be a good way to “gain traction” to start with, in the future, when you have a real following, you’ll still have a hefty lump of fake accounts that will be skewing your social media analytics. This can be particularly troublesome if you buy Facebook likes, as you won’t see an accurate view of your demographics, which is one of the things that make Facebook Pages so great.

And while buying 5000 followers might only take as long as entering your PayPal password, going through your list and blocking 5000 users will take much longer.