Twitter's robotic social network following is booming
- From: The Australian
- June 19, 2012
THE economy involving fake and contrived Twitter followings is booming, with a researcher claiming that up to 45 per cent of some companies' followers on the social network were robots.Australian websites are among those offering contrived Twitter followers to businesses and people who are using them in large numbers.
Other groups in turn are going online to recruit Twitter users and are paying them to follow their clients.
Marco Camisani Calzolari, a corporate communications strategist and founder of Speakage, which develops web platforms such as social networks and viral systems, has released a study he said showed that some of the world's major corporations have hundreds of thousands of robotic Twitter followers.
He bases his analysis on companies that sold products and services listed among the top 1000 companies with the most Twitter followers on http://twitaholic.com/.
Only 13 qualified after eliminating individuals, celebrities and media organisations.
Professor Calzolari claims that up to 45 per cent of some company's Twitter followers are robots -- in one case that amounted to 1.14 million extra Twitter followers.
Professor Calzolari used criteria to attempt to separate real and concocted users such as whether the Twitter profile had a name, physical address, biography, web address, a geolocation, more than 50 posts, used hashtags and had used an iPhone or Android phone to login to Twitter.
Based on his criteria, he said robots followers had invaded the Twitter followings of Pepsi (119,905 robot followers), Coca-Cola (72,020), RIM's BlackBerry (150,037), PlayStation (150,671) and Samsung (136,010).
However, he drew no conclusion as to whether companies had sought robot followers or had passively acquired them via the social network. He qualifies his findings as relating to "human" and "bot" behaviours.
"A very high number of users with 'bot' behaviours were found in certain companies, with percentages in excess of 45 per cent, despite the fact that, as described previously, the algorithm allowing 'human' and 'bot' points to be assigned was defined with very conservative parameters," Professor Calzolari wrote.
"We can deduce that users display profoundly different behaviours, revealing large numbers of 'inactive' users with behaviours which, if we consider the algorithm and its weighted parameters as being valid, can reasonably be considered non-human behaviours."
Robot followers are easy to acquire online. The site http://getmorefollows.com offers 1000 followers for $US17 ($17), 2000 for $US32 and 25,000 Twitter followers for $US277. Delivery ranges from 3 to 20 days based on the number ordered.
In Australia, http://www.socialtraffic.com.au offers virtually instant followings but charges more for what it says are real users and not robots. Some 1000 Twitter users cost $145, 10,000 cost $795 while 50,000 new Twitter followers cost $2745.
Some groups advertise on the web for real Twitter users whom they will pay to follow their clients. Some require so-called professional followers to have at least 100 followers of their own.
It's not just Twitter that is growing this fledgling economy. Professional social network users can receive payments for befriending people on Facebook, for bookmarking sites on Digg.com, stumbleupon.com, and reddit.com, and for writing comments on blogs, forums and Facebook walls. Those who populate their Twitter followings with non-real followers risk being outed by others in tweets on the same social network they are using to promote their identities.
The benefit of being seen to have a horde of Twitter followers can be tempting enough for some people to take risks.
Employers may see a staff member with a falsely inflated Twitter following as valuable for commanding influence, and a company may wish to show up competitors by having substantially more followers and fans.
Twitter users with very large following can receive perks and kickbacks. These include being paid to post what appear to be unsolicited tweets endorsing a targeted product, being invited free to attend major events around the world and tweet on them, and receiving free products that they may talk about on their social networks accounts.
Public relations firm Text 100 senior director Karalee Evans said it was not enough to assess a Twitter user's influence based on the number of followers.
You needed also to check how many retweets they received, their engagement level and how many people conversed with them.
"From my perspective, you don't just look at the followers, you need to look deeper.
"If they didn't have a high interaction, you wouldn't include them on your outreach list," she said.