Twitter followers = influence? Maybe not

Facebook and Twitter follower numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

I have always been sceptical of social media — especially Twitter.

After reading various blogs and several news websites, as well as watching mainstream TV and reading the odd dead-tree newspaper, I don't have much time for anything else.

Yes, I can see how tweeting announcements can make you first to be heard, especially if you are a journalist. I recall several of my peers doing that at a media lunch just the other week.

But we must always be sceptical about those who claim to have so many followers.

If you are a well-known individual, you will inevitably get a certain amount of followers. But claims of follower numbers will also depend on the vested interest of the tweeter, especially if they aim to sell something.

Some months back, a PR firm kept talking to me about how you could buy Twitter followers, and how people didn't listen to you unless you had a minimum number of followers.

That PR firm alerted Computerworld to a website that can measure how many reported Twitter followers are real.

Computerworld zeroed in on someone whose thousands of followers were found by the tool to be 94 per cent fake — Adnan Khan, account manager for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, and whose job certainly revolves around his social media influence.

As Computerworld points out, Khan has spoken at events before on the topic of social media, for example, at the Social Media Club in Auckland.

Since the article was sent live, Khan's Twitter account was made private and he now only has 49 followers.

We need to realise how much social media is just hype, fluff and nonsense. We should take the claims of such marketers with a pinch of salt, and thank God there are software companies like Status People that can expose the fraudsters.

According to the PR firm, signs that someone's followers are fake are rapid follower growth, disproportionate followers to following and followers who have strange bios, or no followers themselves.

And the fact that the whole debacle has been centred around a Facebook employee, who should be savvy on social media channels, but seems to have instead have taken the easy way out, is an embarrassing Facebook failure. It seems Facebook is just hot air and Twitter is an emperor who wears no clothes.

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