Whether you manage a personal Twitter account or if you are charged with promoting several client brands on the platform, Twitter accounts will inevitably attract a few fake followers. Some Twitter users even purchase fake followers to bolster the visibility of their account. However, fake followers can be identified, and when other followers begin to notice the high number of fake followers associated with an account, the account’s credibility is compromised.
Marketing professionals and social media experts recommend that you identify fake Twitter followers. You can then choose to take no action, or to block and report the fake accounts so Twitter can delete them.
Certain tech-savvy Twitter users have written programs that enable fake accounts to automatically follow legitimate users. These programs are called “follower-bots.” Basically, the application duplicates the account of a real user, and then the account follows several real accounts.
Twitter accounts with high visibility, like Obama for America’s @BarackObama account and accounts owned by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Ashton Kutcher, attract a large number of fake followers due to the massive presence these accounts command on Twitter. Spiral 16 reported that over 52 percent of the followers of the @BarackObama account are fake, and 20 percent are inactive. Only 28 percent of the account’s followers have been verified as actual human users.
Block and Report Trolls
Certain fake followers can be troll accounts. A troll can follow your Twitter account and post negative, even vulgar, tweets to your timeline. Trolls are often fake plants from competitors, disgruntled employees or those with different political views. The troll’s tweets are designed to discredit your account and your brand. When you encounter a troll, immediately block and report the user to Twitter.
To block and report the account, open the user’s profile in a browser, then click the downward-pointing arrow next to the Person icon. Click the “Report (account) for Spam” option in the drop-down menu, where the user’s Twitter handle replaces “(account)” placeholder entry. When you report the account, the user is automatically blocked from following you, messaging you and seeing your tweets. Trolls are easy to identify because they interact with you on the platform. However, other fake accounts are not so easy to find.
Finding Fake Accounts
If you manage an active Twitter account, you should know how many of your followers are fake accounts. You can visually inspect your Followers list to learn a great deal about the accounts that follow you.
Signs that a follower account may be fake include:
- The Egg Avatar
The Egg avatar is used as the default avatar when a Twitter account is created. Twitter users are encouraged to replace the Egg with their own photo or avatar. If an account displays the Egg avatar, either the account is new or the account is a possible fake. Explore accounts using the Egg avatar further to determine their authenticity.
- Date Joined Twitter and Number of Tweets
Check the questionable account profile to find when the user joined Twitter and how many tweets have been sent from the account. This information can be found referencing the user’s profile page. Access the profile by adding the user’s Twitter handle – without the “@” sign – to the Twitter URL in the browser address bar. For example, to open the profile page for Charlie Sheen’s account, type “www.twitter.com/CharlieSheen” in the browser address bar and press “Enter.” You can also click on the user’s hyperlinked handle in a tweet to open his profile page.
- Followers and Following
Take a look at who follows the account and who the account is following. Click the “Followers” tab in the profile page to view the account’s followers, and click “Following” to view those the account follows. You can also view the total number of followers and following accounts under the header image on the user’s profile page. If the account has few followers and a small following, chances are great that the account is fake.
- Content of Tweets
Check the tweets sent from the account in the account’s timeline. The timeline is displayed on the user’s profile page. If an account is sending spam or trolling other accounts, the probability that the account is fake is very high. Many fake accounts send random retweets and repeatedly post the same or similar tweets. If the account shows no logical order or organization, the account is probably fake.
Applications to Identify Fake Followers
You can identify fake followers by using applications designed for this specific purpose. Several applications are available that will help you identify fake followers for Twitter accounts you manage.
- Twitter Counter
One sign that an account may have acquired a large number of fake followers is when the account suddenly shows a marked increase in the number of followers in a short time. Twitter Counter is a free, Web-based application that displays a graph of the number of Twitter followers over a timeline beginning when the account was created. If the graph shows a sharp increase in followers within a very short period of time, the account has likely purchased or otherwise obtained fake followers.
Another sign of fake followers is a static, linear, almost-perfect increase in followers over the timeline of the account. Some unscrupulous companies that sell fake followers will offer the value-added service of adding only a limited number of followers per day. A mechanical straight upward incline in the number of followers is a sign that the followers may not be legitimate.
Use Twitter Counter at www.twittercounter.com to find out if a massive group of fake followers were added to a Twitter account at one time. If an account has organically acquired its followers, the graph should show a slow and steady incline over time.
SocialBakers a free, Web application that allows you to check your own Twitter accounts for fake followers. The application users an algorithm that determines the probability of a follower being fake or real. The application displays the percentage of these accounts as “Suspicious or Empty.” SocialBakers also finds and displays the percentages of inactive and good followers. To use SocialBakers, just visit the URL “www.socialbakers.com/twitter/fakefollowercheck/” in your favorite browser. Type the Twitter handle of the account to assess in the text box, then click the “Check” button. You will be prompted to log in to your Twitter account and authorize the application. The percentages of Suspicious or Empty, Inactive and Good accounts display below the text box once followers have been assessed.
You must visually inspect the account’s followers to determine which accounts are fake. Use the criteria listed above to determine the likelihood of an account being fake.
- Twitter Audit
The Twitter Audit application operates like SocialBakers to identify real and fake followers for Twitter accounts you manage. However, Twitter Audit also provides an audit score for your accounts. A high audit score means that the account has few fake followers. To use Twitter Audit, open “www.twitteraudit.com” in a browser, and then enter the Twitter handle for the account to audit.