Most businesses and individuals who rely on social media signals and followers for their business have at least some fake followers. Many business owners, musicians, artists, authors, and even entrepreneurs will buy social media signals, fans, and followers- especially when they are just starting out. They do this to boost their Social Proof and ranking so they get noticed sooner and stand out in the crowd easier until they can prove their worth. Even if you don’t buy them yourself, everyone on Twitter and YouTube eventually gets a good chunk of fake followers or viewers as they get more popular, as the fake ones try to hide in between the lines by following and watching random people.
Is Buying Social Proof Possible?
Many do it but not to the extent that one of the current presidential candidates has. Of the millions of Twitter followers and YouTube views that Donald Trump has, several studies have shown that the numbers include many questionable ones — such as accounts with very few tweets, little to no activity, no completed profile information, have few followers and fans, or have only been active for a few months. Many of these are probably fake and these questionable accounts make up a good chunk of Trump’s followers- and that is just on Twitter. The same trend is likely true on Facebook and the other social media platforms he is using in his campaign.
BUT HE WON!
Trump has recently been in the spotlight for his charged and at times questionable tweets about a variety of hot button topics, and this feeds into the growing attention his followers are getting on Twitter- which is also spilling into checks into his other social media campaigns. He interacts on social media often but if most of his followers and friends are fake accounts with no one really behind them, then it means little at all for his power and appeal. There have been reports that show a surprising number of his fans and followers online are dead and spam accounts that his campaign has purchased for the sole reason to make his online campaign seem more powerful and strong than it really it. However, Trump is not alone in this kind of underhanded tactics.
He used purchased social signals to growth-hack his campaign. Aaaaaaaaaaand It worked.
Every major candidate still in the race and several who were but dropped out and even a couple who hinted at running but chose not to have lots of online social media followers that fit this bill of the probably fake account. Trump does seem to have a greater share than most others in the spotlight, but Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton does bring up a close second. Her biggest rival, Bernie Sanders, had a smaller number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans than Clinton or Trump, but his seemed to be almost completely valid authentic accounts.
The biggest problems with trying to peg which accounts are fake is that no universally accepted definition exists for what a fake account looks like. There are people who just browse and read and never comment or interact and these people generally don’t even bother to fill out their profile or choose an avatar. Some people only share and repost and others only leave non verbal comments like thumbs ups and status likes. So the debate rages on and we are left to wonder and decide for ourselves if YouTube views, Twitter followers and Facebook friends really matter as Donald Trump has already won!