Welcome to this quarter’s report on Fake Social followers. BarracudaLabs dove headfirst into the world of paying for perceived social popularity. Verdict: The fake follower economy is still flourishing and is still the scourge of social media. The study showed that not only is the fake follower economy flourishing, but it is in fact growing.
Compared to last year BarracudaLabs found that the average cost for one thousand Twitter followers was 60% of this time last year ($11/k vs. $18/k). Over 1147 “abusers” were identified by Barracuda, with the average Twitter buyer having 52,432 followers and 55% of these abusers have a URL in their profile. Eighty-eight of the identified abusers had more than 100k followers and 15+ had successfully purchased more than one million followers.
Additionally, new fake follower services have begun to pop-up that include:
- 100% active followers
- 5-year retention protection
- Pass as “real user” in fake follower check
- Geo-targeting by country or city
- Target by profile information
Another disturbing trend is the increase of fake users that copy info and images from real users. Spammers find a real user, then modify the user name with various iterations on the name/numbers or with underscores. While they may look real to the human eye, their footprint is anything but. Here’s a look at the average profile of a fake account vs. a real account:
The fake accounts use the web for 98% of updates, are 1/5 the age, have 1/10th the followers and don’t have nearly as many unique Tweet Timestamps. It also appears that the fake accounts tweet several times within a small period of time, then disappear, some will Tweet 60+ characters 5 times within one minute.
So how can we curb this fake follower economy? Seeing that Twitter has been fairly lax on the issue (as they’ve been targeting other malicious hacking) it’s up to us to stop putting a premium on follower counts and look at the quality of content. As simple as that sounds, unfortunately instant (paid) Twitter popularity is an easier way to go for the majority of the lazy unmotivated Twitter masses.