There are many sites now offering Twitter followers for sale for anything as low as $5 for 5,000 followers.
I was curious to see if this might be a viable method to boost the presence of a new website or online business and more importantly would it hold up under scrutiny.
I bought 4,000 followers from someone on Fiverr and expected my followers list to soon be filled with eggs! Once the order had been completed I was surprised to see that actually the vast majority of the profiles looked fairly genuine, all had pictures and bio which is a good start. Unfortunately this is where the illusion ends, as soon as you start to look at the followers accounts a very familiar pattern starts to arise. Most of my latest 4,000 followers have zero followers (some have 1 or 2), they're all following the same number of people and most of them have never tweeted. Look even further and I can see that they also all follow the exact same list of people!
What I find very interesting is that looking at the people each of these accounts are following is obviously the client list of the person selling the followers, many of which include everything from new businesses and companies to verified users and minor celebrities. Looks like everyone is at it?
To conclude, clearly it's easy to identify fake followers, even those that look good on the surface. For public figures and B2C companies I can see that this might be a nice way to boost your figures and "look" popular. For a B2B company it seams like a bad idea, especially if your customers are likely to perform any kind of due diligence checks on you.
A few weeks after I performed this experiment, every single fake follower had thankfully disappeared from my Twitter account. Clearly Twitter are on top of this, which is great.