By now, it's no secret that many people – from mom bloggers to celebrities to politicians – have acquired a portion of their social media following by simply purchasing it. Last year, there was a brief media outrage when it was reported that Hillary Clinton had bought Twitter followers, much to the delight of her adversaries who were quick to condemn the former First Lady for her "immoral" behavior.
Now that the public has had some time to reflect on this revelation, what should we make of this controversial practice? After we all collectively gasped and then shook our heads in disapproval, when the dust cleared it seemed apparent the there were no real consequences to Mrs. Clinton for being outed. Which leads to the question, "Why shouldn't you buy Twitter followers?" Everybody wants to appear more popular, right? Let's examine this debate a little more closely.
So if there are no serious repercussions from artificially pumping up your numbers, then why not do it?
For one thing, the followers that you'd buy are completely fake. The best ones look very real, but rest assured that they only exist to follow you. They will not interact with your tweets, and they don't care if you follow them back or not. They're essentially ghosts, wisps of smoke floating around the World Wide Web.
Secondly, unlike "organic" followers, you have to fork over some money for the fake ones. Granted, it's not a lot of money. On some sites, you can buy Twitter followers for the same price as a Starbucks Frappuccino. Still, they don't come for free.
Finally, there's the aforementioned risk of being found out. The reputable online companies won't reveal your secrets, but if an individual wants to take the time to manually evaluate all of your followers, they can gather enough evidence to suggest that some of your virtual admirers were not genuinely gained.
Apparently this is what happened to poor Hillary. Some of her political opponents took the time to sift through her 42, 600 followers and discovered that a fair percentage of them were fake.
Either that, or her political opponents are the ones who bought the fake followers for her account in the first place–and then promptly alerted the media. Wouldn't be the first time that a politician was set up.
All of that said, we could easily make an argument for the other position, which is, "Hey, maybe buying followers isn't such a bad idea." After all, whether we acknowledge it or not, we're all pretty impressed by other people's big Twitter numbers. Social proof is a powerful psychological force, and perhaps we could put some of that mojo to work for our own purposes.
And honestly, the "moral issue" with appearing more popular than you really are doesn't hold water. Perhaps people are more suspicious of online information since the cyberworld is still relatively new. But traditional businesses and brands have been swaying public perception by employing similar maneuvers for a long time–long before Twitter was around, that's for sure.
For example, it's well known that the diamond industry stockpiles tons of precious stones in order to create a false scarcity on the market that artificially inflates the prices. Luxury car brands have 6-month waiting lists for the newest models, even though the vehicles are ready to roll out from the factory floor.
These practices are all designed to make something seem more popular than it really is. How is buying Twitter followers really any different?
In the end, it's just another form of marketing. It's a way to get you or your brand noticed so that you have the attention of potential clients, customers, or fans. It's a simple as that.
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