A little over a week ago, the news of Facebook’s fake clicks shed a bit of light on their real situation, and after that the world learned that 10% of Facebook’s users are not actually active users, but essentially dummy accounts. Well, now Twitter is having similar issues regarding their reliability to advertisers, as the BarracudaLabs internet security blog tells of some pretty outstanding information and numbers regarding fake Twitter accounts. The difference with Twitter, however, is that there is really no question that it is not their fault. People see something as popular as Twitter and start thinking of how money can be made with it.
I’m sure, for you, the answer is advertising, but for some selling Twitter followers was the way to go. Jason Ding, the research scientist that wrote the BarracudaLabs blog post stated,
“For the past 75 days, we have been investigating the business of trading Twitter followers on eBay and other websites searched from Google. As it turns out, this underground economy on Twitter is blooming! The results show that this Twitter business is growing very fast to form a series of underground markets.”
People are trading phony accounts for their following value to one another like some sort of digital black market that they try to keep advertisers out of the loop on.
Anyway, Ding writes about the dealers themselves, who are the ones creating fake accounts and selling their followings. Throughout their searches, they found 20 sellers on eBay and an astounding 58 sellers within the top 100 pages of results in Google. Apparently, the standard pricing on these deals is around $18 for 1,000 followers. The thing is, it isn’t just followings that they are selling. Ding writes that,
“In addition to selling followings from these fake accounts, there are numerous opportunities for expansion into other services: selling tweets/re-tweets to earn additional profits.”
The internet security company found around 11,283 abusers, which are those people who buy followers to appear more popular or to use the accounts for selling ads. 53% of these abusers has 4,000-26,000 followers and there were 72,212 fake accounts found. On average, the fake accounts are recent, made within the past three months, but the oldest one found was made in 2007. They’ve been around for awhile and have apparently been regulated, be it by Twitter or by dealers trying to keep things organized.
These fake accounts can be used in many ways, including a few ways that can hurt advertisers and businesses quite a bit. Fake accounts will always confuse things, and maybe even screw people over in the process. Now that there is a market for fake Twitter accounts, there seems to be little hope of them disappearing any time soon. The fact is, for social networks to rid their sites of fake accounts is nearly impossible, and Twitter is not to blame. However, if something isn’t done about monitoring these fake accounts, advertisers may have to be watching their backs a bit while utilizing Twitter.