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Exposed: An Insider's Guide to Twitter's Dirty Little Secrets

High social media engagement is one of the greatest public assets to any business or brand. As with any other valuable commodity, the passion (or all out war) of being #1 can be and often is a dirty game.

Spam Wars

There's the one that comes in a can, put there by a guy, in a factory in well... I'm not totally sure. The other is... shockingly similar to mass-produced 'meat'.

Unlike the oh-so-popular spam e-mails or ads encouraging us to 'click to buy cheap pharmaceuticals', social media spam is in a league of its own. What would you say if I told you that nearly 7 million of Justin Bieber's 37 Million followers are fake? More than that, around 9 million more are inactive.

According to Tristan Louis, a contributor for Forbes' Tech News division, spam is becoming an increasingly troublesome problem. In a recent article about this rapidly growing trend, he came up with what he believes to be an accurate representation as to just how many legitimate followers some of the most popular Tweeps actually have.

I've taken a few screen shots just to give you a clear picture...


Are you surprised? I was.

How the number of active Twitter followers are relevant for small businesses...

Keep in mind that Twitter is now allowing all businesses to directly advertise on Twitter. While there's no denying Twitter is a very powerful advertising tool, for small business owners in particular, it's an important piece of the puzzle when determining whether paid advertisements are cost effective.

Remember, if you have worked hard to cultivate 200 followers who are genuinely interested in your information, products, and services, those people, although smaller in number, is far more likely to be of value than those who may find you via a promoted tweet.

I'll keep you my dirty little secret...

Well kind of. It's no secret that everything is for sale. What most outside of the industry don't know is that Twitter followers are no exception. Celebrities and luxury brands including, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, and multiple politicians (okay, that last one isn't at all surprising to me...) have been outed by two Italian security researchers as being big spenders in the market of fake followers.

Last year, former US Presidential wanna-be, Mitt Romney, came under fire for the practice after his Twitter account suddenly acquired nearly 120,000 new followers in a single day. There are multiple factors as to how you can be fairly certain that someone is buying followers, however, the biggest tip-off is atypical behavior, such as gaining a large number of followers, only to have the number drop just as drastically the following month. Looks like the secret's out?

What the purchasing of Twitter followers means for your business...

Simply put, don't engage in this practice. In all likelihood, purchasing followers has a greater chance of hurting your professional brand/ business reputation than it does of helping it.


  • It's a waste of time

  • It's a waste of money

  • You end up with followers who have absolutely no need for your product

  • You end up with followers who are not real people at all

  • You run a the very real risk of fallout/backlash if someone notices your overnight increase

  • Lack of trust from current followers, or worse, current clients...

Twitter remains a viable & strong marketing platform...

Well, so long as you do it properly.

For a fraction of the cost, you can have an in-office tweeter, or you can also hire a firm who will manage your account. The right social media person will engage with followers, while promoting relevant industry content so that you are targeting people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.

Tempting as that numbers game may be, try to ignore. Remember, quality followers and community members should be your focus. That's the piece of the puzzle most likely to be of benefit to small, local businesses.

3 rules of Twitter for Small Businesses

  1. Be personal.

  2. Be engaging.

  3. Be a part of a community.

They are worth their weight in gold.


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