Fake Accounts: Is Marketing on Twitter Worth It?
| 5 minutes read
Fake followers plague otherwise legitimate social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They promote spam and abuse and destroy reputations. Fortunately, AI-powered fraud solutions can stop the problems before they start occurring.
When SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced the acquisition of Twitter, people and business leaders started to share their thoughts and opinions. But during the deal, Musk held the deal for a while, but later, he assured us that he would buy Twitter.
The Tesla founder bought Twitter for approximately $44 billion, which is more than the many small countries’ total GDP cost. Twitter is already at a loss, and many factors are responsible, but it is still one of the best platforms, especially for leaders worldwide. But when it comes to marketing on Twitter, it is not the first choice of companies. A report says, around 19.42percent of the active profiles on Twitter are fake. Due to this, many companies have observed a sudden drop in followers, but no need to panic. You didn’t do anything wrong; this has happened to almost everyone.
Since April, Twitter has been trying to clean and remove the fake accounts used to mislead users; around 5percent (70M) of the active counterfeit profiles have been drawn, but we can expect some pace after the acquisition.
For years, sub-par oversight and a lack of transparency have made it hard to pin down the value of Twitter marketing campaigns, and marketers have been unwilling to invest too many resources into the platform.
Why Do Fake Twitter Followers Even Exist?
If it’s true that fake followers don’t work as a marketing strategy, why are there still so many fake followers? We still live in a virtual world where everyone cares about the number of followers. People check the numbers no matter how many active or fake profiles. Users connect numbers with success; the more followers you have, the more successful you’re.
Another reason why fake followers still exist. Fraudsters make money with them. Not just by selling them, but by using them to deceive you and steal from you.
To make one thing very clear, fake Twitter followers are bots. They’re not real people. Fraudsters create them and then use them for illegal purposes, including fake reviews, fake news dissemination, ad fraud, online abuse, content abuse, and spam.
Bots Are Pilfering Your Identity
A 2018 article from the New York Times exposed the practices of a company called Devumi that sells fake followers; often, as the article makes clear, these accounts are created using personal information stolen from legitimate user accounts:
“The accounts that most resemble real people … reveal a kind of large-scale social identity theft. At least 55,000 of the accounts use real Twitter users’ names, profile pictures, hometowns, and other personal details, including minors.”
Instagram, one of the largest social media platforms globally, has waged a long and public battle against fake accounts. While much of the media coverage focuses on trying to “out” influencers for not being as popular as they claim, there are much bigger issues at stake, as a recent article from The Independent made clear. The post quotes Pete Hunt, CEO of Smyte, who says, “Bots are also used to attack people. For example, the bot may be befriending you so that it can send you private messages with spam or phishing attempts.” The article goes on to cite a study by Imperva, noting that “these bad bots, the ones that want to steal your password or infect you with a virus, account for 28.9% of bots on Instagram.” Finally, the article clarifies that “If your Instagram is public, meaning anyone can view your pictures, the risk of bots following you, messaging you, and stealing your photos is increased.”
In short, fake followers are predatory bots built to defraud and destabilize otherwise legitimate platforms.
Analyzing the Analysis
“From May 13-15, 2022, SparkToro and Followerwonk conducted a rigorous, joint analysis of 44,058 public Twitter accounts active in the last 90 days…our analysis found that 19.42%, nearly four times Twitter’s Q4 2021 estimate, fit a conservative definition of fake or spam accounts (i.e., our analysis likely undercounts).”
The report describes fake followers this way: “Spam…that does not frequently have a human being personally comprising the content of their tweets, consuming the activity on their timeline or engaging in the Twitter ecosystem.”
That’s very much in line with the company’s own definition, published in 2020, which stated, “In sum, a bot is an automated account — nothing more or less.”
This means these definitions do not refer to inactive accounts or ones where a human or brand uses them and some automated tools to assist. If there is any activity or engagement with other user tweets, it must be completely automated to qualify as a bot.
It’s important to understand how “active users” are defined; in Twitter’s 2019 earnings report, they described monetizable daily active usage (mDAU) as: “Users who logged in or were otherwise authenticated and accessed Twitter on any given day through Twitter.com or Twitter applications that are are can show ads.”
They further define monthly active usage (MAU) as: “Users who logged in or were otherwise authenticated and accessed Twitter through our website, mobile website, desktop or mobile applications, SMS or registered third-party applications or websites in the 30 days ending on the date of measurement.”
Re-Approaching Influencer Strategies
“I’d recommend still working with sources of influence on Twitter,” assured Rand Fishkin, author of the report and founder of SparkToro “Just because, broadly, they may have 10 or 20 million fewer active users than their public statements say doesn’t mean the hundreds of millions of folks you can reach there aren’t valuable.”
Indeed, for any organically grown account, the majority of followers are going to be real, interested, and targeted. One of the reasons fake profiles are such an issue with the platform is the ease at which they can be purchased.
“The fake follower’s tool on SparkToro is reasonable to estimate what % of a Twitter account’s followers are real and active,” added Rand. “But again, if an account has 20% or 30% ‘fake’ accounts, that doesn’t mean the other 70 to 80% of people they can reach aren’t valuable.”
Any brand considering working with an influencer can measure how “real” their followers are and use that new number as the basis for their analysis.
As Neal Schaffer, author of The Age of Influence, noted: “There are still real people on Twitter who prefer that platform to others and thus can be engaged with, and it is also where the media continues to look for information.”
Solution: AI-Powered Fraud Prevention
There is no place for fake accounts and fake followers in our digital economy. The way counterfeit currencies harm the economy is how they hurt the digital economy.
They don’t do anyone any good. However, if titans like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are still struggling to find and laxative them, what chance do we stand of ridding the world of these chaos-causing bots and winning the battle for safety online?
The answer comes down to proactivity. When you can prevent fake accounts from being created in the first place before damage occurs, then you win. DataVisor CEO and Co-Founder Yinglian Xie regularly point out, “If you are only keeping up, you are already behind.”
On the other hand, unsupervised machine learning can expose the planning stages of a future attack. This allows organizations to block bots before they become fake followers. In this way, we make the digital world a safer place for all.
We’re sure you have why companies do not prefer marketing on Twitter with the above information. Active, genuine users are required for marketing, and Twitter is not good at this. You can take help from the fake follower’s tool, but Twitter does not carry trust in marketing. However, the platform is still good at delivering news and information.
Suprotik Sinha is the Content Writer with Synkrama Technologies. He writes about technologies and startups in the global enterprise space. An animal lover, Suprotik, is a postgraduate from Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication (SIMC) Pune. He carries 6+ years of experience in Content Writing, and he also worked in mainstream broadcast media, where he worked as a Journalist with Ibn7 ( now known as News18 India) and Zee Media in Mumbai.