It’s true what they say; you can make a business out of anything. Apparently, there’s now a market for fake Twitter accounts. I’m actually a little anxious to see what they come up with next. According to a recent article, selling fake Twitter accounts, or followers, has become sort of an underground market thing. These accounts are usually sold on large batches with the average price of $18 per 1000 account. It seems has quickly grown to become a multimillion-dollar industry.
So what does this all mean for business? It means we could be seeing several new Enron’s in the making. Social media marketing is huge and it’s largely effective. The one problem is that social media is free so you can’t really put a monetary value on the return on investment. What marketers have done is to quantify returns is by measuring the number of pageviews, likes, followers, retweets, and comments on their social media pages based on the amount of time spent marketing. This is simply one of several ways to measure social media ROI. So here’s where the problem comes in. Your company has to report its ROI but things aren’t going as great as you’d hoped. So you decide to buy up a couple batches of fake accounts and all of a sudden your social media page has a few thousand or so followers.
The crazy thing is: these accounts are near identical to real accounts. Of course if you spent enough time checking one out you might be able to tell that it’s fake, but there’s thousands of them. Even if you were to develop software complicated enough to analyze those accounts it would still take time and funds to develop one. This strange new business has even spawned businesses created solely to create software that could create as many accounts that look as authentic as possible.
Ultimately what this means is: not only are these companies lying to they’re investors, but they’re lying to potential business partners and customers because they’re boosting themselves to make themselves look better than they actually are. A consequence of this now is that marketers would be associated with unethical business practices.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. As a consumer I find it difficult to trust companies and as a marketer I think this is giving us a bad name. At the time I’m amused and amazed at how fast this market has blown up and how crazy it is that people can turn this into a business in the first place.