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I Bought 10,000 Fake Twitter Followers. Why Didn’t Klout, Kred (or Others) Notice?

Jim Tobin.
By: Jim Tobin  |   January 16, 2013  |   View Comments

A quick check of my Twitter account will show you that, as of writing this post, I have about 19,450 followers. I'm no Justin Bieber, but it's a respectable number.

Except for the fact that 10,000 of them are fake.

A Grand Experiment

I got the idea to buy followers and measure the results in September from a friend. With Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and StatusPeople all watching and grading our accounts, I wondered:

Would 10,000 new followers add to my "klout" (increased reach) if they were clearly fake? Or would it detract from it because a smaller percentage of my followers were reacting with my content (decreased resonance)?

As it turns out, nothing happened. I got 10,000 more followers. My scores all stayed basically the same even though I tracked each of them on 19 separate occasions.

The Results

As I said, surprisingly little action here. My Klout score was either 67 or 66 every day I tracked, except two days in October where I dipped to 65.

To be fair, StatusPeople did have 7% of my followers as "inactive" before the experiment began. This increased to a high of 65% on October first, but has varied between 29% and 48% since, despite the fact that my fake followers likely didn't become active in the last few months.

Why No Change?

TechCrunch's review of the Altimeter Group's report on these services noted that they measure your "social influence – not your influence but your potential for it." So while that may lead someone to think a bigger follower count leads to higher scores, that's not the case.

I asked Lynn Fox, head of PR at Klout, why my Klout score didn't move despite my increase in followers. Her answer:

Klout gives very little weight to how many Twitter followers you have. We define influence as the ability to drive action, so follower count is a very small part of influence. We care much more about social engagement, like RTs, @ replies and mention. Engagement is such a dominant part of the Score that accounts with fake Twitter followers don't get rewarded for that.

I also asked Andrew Grill, CEO of Kred, why my Kred score didn't move. His answer:

Your @jtobin account already has a great Kred score of 742/6. This means that it becomes harder to gain more influence – see our curve – just by adding followers. You would need more people mentioning you, RT you, etc. to see your score rise rapidly. As you can see below, your Kred is increasing the most when influential people (those with > 10,000 followers) RT you (+25 points).

Conclusion: Fake Followers Didn't Help or Hurt Me

It's a net positive that neither Klout nor Kred cared much for the size of my network. Perhaps it's because my Twitter account is over 5 years old and my Klout scores and Kred scores have been in place for a while. But given that influence measures should be based on one's ability to impact others, I was pleased that it wasn't so simple to trick the big tracking sites. My influence didn't change as a result of the purchase, so my numbers didn't change.

I'm still not sure why StatusPeople didn't pick up on my fake followers, since the company I bought my followers from indicates quite clearly that they are fake.

By the way, if you're curious as to how Kred comes by your score, they outline it in detail. Klout is less specific with their algorithm.


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Comments
  • http://aptsonic.com/ Jason A. Howie

    Funny I was just looking into this myself. Status People also has the wrong score for me as well.

  • http://aptsonic.com/ Jason A. Howie

    Funny I was just looking into this myself. Status People also has the wrong score for me as well.

  • http://twitter.com/sbhsbh Steve Hughes

    Klout scores don't have a high beta anymore. I think my score has moved 1 point since the last algo, no more wild swings. Kred never moved quickly, they were always methodical.

  • http://twitter.com/sbhsbh Steve Hughes

    Klout scores don't have a high beta anymore. I think my score has moved 1 point since the last algo, no more wild swings. Kred never moved quickly, they were always methodical.

  • Gary Collins

    All sounds pretty logical to me, having a big reach is only useful if the audience is engaging and by the same token having a high level of engagement is no good if you don't have a big reach

  • Gary Collins

    All sounds pretty logical to me, having a big reach is only useful if the audience is engaging and by the same token having a high level of engagement is no good if you don't have a big reach

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Hi Gary, Yes, it makes sense, and I'm glad buying followers didn't "work." I suspect it would have 2 years ago. And I really didn't know what would happen.

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Hi Gary, Yes, it makes sense, and I'm glad buying followers didn't "work." I suspect it would have 2 years ago. And I really didn't know what would happen.

  • http://twitter.com/IStockTimelapse Daniel Lowe

    Opinion: all that Klout stuff is polishing the brass on the Titanic. You know how I determine who to follow on Twitter? I read their stream. Looks informative? Then I follow. End of story.

    I'll never trust a buddy system where we all trade +1's in a circle-jerk fashion. I'd rather be, y'know, working on my photography skills and sharing real knowledge.

  • http://twitter.com/FilmTimelapse Daniel Lowe

    Opinion: all that Klout stuff is polishing the brass on the Titanic. You know how I determine who to follow on Twitter? I read their stream. Looks informative? Then I follow. End of story.

    I'll never trust a buddy system where we all trade +1's in a circle-jerk fashion. I'd rather be, y'know, working on my photography skills and sharing real knowledge.

  • http://twitter.com/SteveWebb Steve Webb

    Jim, the fake followers didn't have an impact on your Klout score, but I'm curious if they had an impact on your new follower acquisition rate on Twitter.

    Twitter spammers typically buy (or artificially create) a large number of followers to create fake indicators of "social proof" (i.e., they know people are more likely to follow accounts that already have a large following).

    Have you observed a similar phenomenon after your 10K follower increase? I realize 10K might not be enough (and you need more time to properly evaluate this), but it's still interesting :-)

  • http://twitter.com/SteveWebb Steve Webb

    Jim, the fake followers didn't have an impact on your Klout score, but I'm curious if they had an impact on your new follower acquisition rate on Twitter.

    Twitter spammers typically buy (or artificially create) a large number of followers to create fake indicators of "social proof" (i.e., they know people are more likely to follow accounts that already have a large following).

    Have you observed a similar phenomenon after your 10K follower increase? I realize 10K might not be enough (and you need more time to properly evaluate this), but it's still interesting :-)

  • http://twitter.com/Smiffbib Kerry :)

    I blogged this very concept :) I am not a number http://www.smiffbib.com/2012/03/27/im-not-a-number/

  • http://twitter.com/Smiffbib Kerry :)

    I blogged this very concept :) I am not a number http://www.smiffbib.com/2012/03/27/im-not-a-number/

  • Mary Elizabeth Trapani

    I'm glad that the number of followers doesn't influence the Klout score. Organizations should not be able to "buy" its following. This leads to further deceiving consumers. By not being influenced by the number of followers, the Klout score recognizes the true purpose of social media. It is about connecting with others and engaging on different issues. These connections should not be fake but reliable and honest.

  • Mary Elizabeth Trapani

    I'm glad that the number of followers doesn't influence the Klout score. Organizations should not be able to "buy" its following. This leads to further deceiving consumers. By not being influenced by the number of followers, the Klout score recognizes the true purpose of social media. It is about connecting with others and engaging on different issues. These connections should not be fake but reliable and honest.

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Daniel, that's great for personal use, but it doesn't scale for brand marketing. It's not all about who to follow on Twitter at times. Sometimes it's about identifying influencers by topic and/or region. So having a tool that narrows that down, before you read their tweets, is really helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Daniel, that's great for personal use, but it doesn't scale for brand marketing. It's not all about who to follow on Twitter at times. Sometimes it's about identifying influencers by topic and/or region. So having a tool that narrows that down, before you read their tweets, is really helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fiona.james.7140 Fiona James


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  • http://thesocialrobot.com The Social Robot

    I was wondering the same thing Steve-- could fake followers help you get more real followers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ehsan.muhammed.54 Ehsan Muhammed

    Great post!

    There is a dispute over whether or not you should buy followers, but its not hurting anyone is it?

    And at the end of the day, you are more likely to get ‘real’ followers as a result of the fakes.

    So why not just try it!

    http://buy-social-media.com

    And if you need more persuading, use this coupon code to get 20% off your order total: 20-OFF

    Reply

  • http://twitter.com/Johnb23456 John #TeamFollowBack

    Yes, you sure will find that things like retweets and mentions will carry at least ten times the influence points of a person simply following you. Also, I would suspect it is extremely likely that the number of influence points gained by followers is probably capped at the level generated by actual actions on your tweets - hence if you have 100000 followers, then to have 200000 influence points, you'd probably need at 100000+ influence points gained from engagement with your followers. It certainly ought to be, so as to stop the spammers!

  • http://twitter.com/Johnb23456 John #TeamFollowBack

    If I see people on twitter advertising followers for sale, I report them for spam - hopefully other people do too, so that those spammers can be banned!

  • Alan Donegan

    Really interesting article. Thank you. Alan

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  • Eline Lady

    http://www.getweet.com/ is the only service that I know of that will get you real human followers.

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