I Bought 10,000 Fake Twitter Followers. Why Didn't Klout, Kred (or Others) Notice?
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.
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.
- Twitter followers: 9,275 before; 19,432 after
- Klout score: 66 before; 67 after
- Kred score: 732/6 before; 742/6 after
- PeerIndex: 49 before; 44 after
- StatusPeople: 1% fake before, 1% fake after
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.
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