View from the Valley: FanScam, the latest rip-off from the Valley
Quantity trumps quality when it comes to businesses offering to increase your number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans, writes AdGent Digital's Cameron Yuill.
Cameron Yuill, chief executive of Adgent Digital
Many brands are now testing social media. They have been building Facebook fan pages and busily tweeting.
Listening to brand custodians it is apparent that a large measure of success of any social media campaign is simply increasing the number of fans or followers. Seems reasonable: the more fans a brand has, the more loyal consumers it has.
In a not unexpected response to demand, entrepreneurs have launched businesses offering to help recruit fans and followers. Again, it seems reasonable to offer to scratch an obvious itch.
I decided to test two services: one offering to find me more followers on Twitter and the other that would get me more likes on Facebook.
The first offered to find me 1,000 Twitter followers for just $19.97. And not just any followers, but a "targeted crowd of buyers". They also promised they would "not add fake twitter followers".
For good measure they added that while "many of our competitors use questionable methods… real humans receive your tweet messages in real-time". All of which "greatly increases the chances of converting one of them to a paying customer". Fantastic! All for less than twenty bucks.
The second service offered to find me ‘real’ Facebook fans. The site warned me to watch out for "competitors’ bad business practices" and stated, "they don’t deliver as promised, don’t respond to emails and don’t provide phone support". I decided to buy 2,000 fans.
The Twitter follower service got off to a flying start. Almost immediately, I was watching my follower count rise by 20 or 30 followers an hour. Awesome!
It was not hard to figure out how the service worked; they simply followed another Twitter account and gave them a few hours to follow back. If they did, I had a new follower.
If they did not, the service stopped following them and followed a whole new batch of accounts.
The Facebook service did nothing for almost a week. No new fans added. Then suddenly I woke one morning, checked the account and 1,000 fans had been added over night. Bam!
Now for the sniff test: who was liking me and who was following me?
Well I am sure you are not surprised to find that my new fans and followers were a collection of fake accounts, fascist fanatics, porn purveyors, racist idiots and frankly a lot of people who tweet and update their status with incredibly inane, stupid and profane stuff.
I got no less than 15 new followers that used the word ‘Bieber’ as part of their handle - @mzbieber, @teambeiber, @littlebieber etc.
I was also followed by accounts set up apparently with the sole purpose of following other accounts including @queen_folowbac (yes that is one ‘l’, no ‘k’) and the appropriately titled @Ifollowbackhoe.
In addition, now following me were people with abilities heretofore unknown to science such as @ispeakvagina.
For the record, I suspected that this would be the result - surely you weren’t expecting me to be that naïve?
I only set out on this experiment when a senior person at a company that works with some prominent brands told me that is how they ‘seed’ all their client campaigns.
For my efforts, I spent hours ‘un-following’ all my new followers in the hope that they would un-follow me. Half did.
I am still trying to figure out how to get people to ‘unlike’ me. Maybe this article will help.
Cameron Yuill is chief executive and founder of Adgent Digital and is based at the company's Palo Alto offices.
Follow Cameron on Twitter @cameronyuill
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