As a lot of people know, there’s nothing quite like getting more followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. Viewed as an indicator of the social status of teenagers for some time, the number of followers that people have has become a far more potent index.
Now followers don’t only measure your popularity and make you feel good about yourself; they can make or break the careers of musicians, actors and the new wave of “influencers” – tastemakers who publish YouTube videos, Facebook statuses, Twitter tweets and Instagram pictures.
Individual celebrities are not the only ones doing it either; many a casino online and brands of other kinds use social media platforms to generate hype and a positive image. If you have a lot of followers, or if what you post is retweeted or shared a lot, your influence is perceived as huge.
Not getting those numbers is disastrous in today’s influencer economy, so what is one to do if they just don’t have them? In this thoroughly modern arena, an age-old adage is proving to be true; there really is nothing that money can’t buy.
The Dubious Business of Purchasing Followers
In a way, it could be argued that buying followers is simply the 21st century version of a rent-a-crowd. Admittedly, it is a much bigger enterprise, but isn’t that just because everything is bigger these days? The options for online betting in Canada and the rest of the world have available are certainly much greater than what is found on land in conventional casinos, and everything else seems to be following suit.
The modern world demands more from us, and gives us new tools to go about delivering what it asks. Buying followers, although not quite pure, is surely part of all that? Well, yes – when the followers are real people. Unfortunately, this is increasingly not the case. Firms are stealing the identities of social media users, some active and some inactive, and using them to create large apparent followers or to amplify a message by retweeting it.
Anything can gather momentum this way; Clay Aiken, former contestant on American Idol, even paid to have a grievance against Volvo spread. Often it is not the celebrities or influencers that buy fake followers, it is associates or even public relations firms. Many whose followings have been swelled this way claim to have believed the audiences they were buying were real people.
Followers that are Bots, Not Humans
Once the identity of someone is stolen, it is changed in very subtle ways. A single lower-case letter in an account name can, for example, be changed to upper case and still look very authentic. Then bots, or automated pieces of software, simply follow or share as they have been programmed to do under, these aliases.
Facebook recently admitted that there were about twice as many fake accounts as had previously been estimated, while about 15% of Twitter’s users are thought to be bots. This is a bigger problem than a lot of people realised, and things need to get better. In this era of fake news, how can we stem these false influencers?
Facebook, Google and Twitter are working on several projects specifically targeted at curbing fake news, and for the moment we can interpret everything with a grain of salt and scrutinise peoples’ lists of followers. As things stand at the moment, the legal landscape and ideas of what else we can do going forward are quite opaque.