Are You Keeping Track of Your Company’s Fake & Inactive Follower Numbers? You Should Be

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twitter birdA few weeks ago I was at the computer and saw a post from a former client. Hadn’t seen anything from them in some time and as they say, out of sight, out of mind. Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to take a quick look at the companies follower engagement numbers. Using a site that quickly checks such things, I was surprised at the numbers. Now mind you I understand that a site that calculates and reports fake, inactive, and active data in a matter of seconds is not 100% accurate, but it is however a good benchmark for a beginning and fairly accurate source.

The Results

I was honestly surprised at the results. They were not impressive, and more importantly they told a story that many social media professionals would recognize right away. It was clear right off the bat that whoever was managing the account was engaging in black hat practices. Black hat meaning undesired, gamed results. The results were as follows:

7% of the companies followers were deemed fake, 33% inactive, and only 60% showed to be active, good followers. These are not numbers to be proud of. When I left the company the total numbers of followers was smaller than now, however the ratio’s were very different. 0%, 1%, and 99% respectively. My contracted goal with the company was to get them started with a solid foundation and hand the activity over to the company to be handled in house. Clearly, someone with little or poor knowledge has been managing the account since, in my humble opinion.

Red Flag

The first thing that went through my head when I saw those numbers was “black hat” practices. Let’s take a look at what those numbers mean. The total number of followers was up significantly, however the number of fake, and more importantly “inactive” followers was way up. What does this tell us?

First, whoever is managing the account is more interested in total number of followers, rather than creating an engaging, interactive community around the brand. By looking at the high ratio of inactive followers, it is a good bet that the account manager is using what is called “seed accounts.” Seed accounts differ from fake (bot) accounts in that they are connected with real people. They are just people who never engage. Social media managers who were stung by buying fake accounts in the past, have started buying these seed accounts to try and game the system to artificially pad total follower numbers. So yeah they don’t show up as fake accounts, but inactive.

What the unsuspecting business owner see’s is a large increase in followers, so the manager must be doing a great job. Wrong. Dig into the numbers a little deeper and you see that in this case 33% of your followers are not engaging with your brand at all. This entire follower group is essentially useless, and doesn’t effect the brand digital presence at all. Business owners beware of social media managers who pride themselves on follower, page like numbers, etc. Dig a little deeper and get the true meaning of the numbers.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Here’s the big deal: A good social media manager will use follower data to track and identify characteristics of the people who are talking about and engaging with the companies brand, for a number of different reasons. This information is crucial to putting together a solid social media/ marketing strategy. If you base your data mining on data from a follower group that is 33% phony, do you think that is going to skew your results, and make putting together a proper strategy useless?  It sure is. It is crucial that company owners take the time to learn at least some basics about social media strategy, whether the manager is in house, or outsourced. Don’t be blindsided by the big number bling, keep in mind it is much better to have 100 followers, 99% of which are real and actively engaging than to have 1,000 of which 40% are not.

There is so much more to managing a social media account then posting pictures on FB, Twitter, G+ etc. The real magic happens on the inside. Having a plan, knowing what and why the goals are, and executing.

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Gerry Michaels
Gerry Michaels (Gettysburg Gerry) is Principal at Glasswork Media Arts, Radio host SteamFeed Radio on Blogtalkradio, VP Marketing Biz Dev at Steamfeed.com, Social Media Columnist for the Gettysburg Times, Social Media strategist and community builder and explorer. I am no different than you, no better/worse. I'm an astronaut exploring this social media space. Fully engulfed in the world that is Social Media, I awake every day anxiously anticipating what the days new technology will bring.Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, Pinterest. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Gerry Michaels

@Gettysburggerry

VP Marketing at SteamFeed Google Glass Explorer,No different than you, no better/worse,an astronaut exploring this social media space.
The Facebook Strategies Of Fortune 500 Finance Firms http://t.co/VGMfnQigpe via @SteamFeedcom - 1 hour ago
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  1. Daniel Hebert says:

    Good post Gerry!

    I always had a hard time understanding what the "inactive" number was. I know what fake accounts, and what good accounts are. But what's the definition of inactive? Does it mean that they never log in? Does it mean they log in, read tweets, but don't engage/retweet? Could they be clicking on links, and still be valuable? I haven't seen a company yet that can actually determine whether someone logs into an account and clicks, vs. someone that logs in and doesn't click or someone that doesn't log in at all. These activities are private, so they can't be measure – and would therefore be marked as inactive, right? All these data companies can measure are public domain data, which would be replies, retweets, and favourites.

    I don't agree with the practice of buying fake followers in any way, but that being said, I don't agree with your example at the end. If you have a following of 100, and 99% are good and engage, that gives you 99 prospects to chat with. If you have 1000 followers, and 60% are good and engaged, that gives you 600 prospects to chat with, which is MUCH better than 99. I think that example only works if you're looking at accounts with similar follower counts.
    My recent post Is Your Presentation on the Naughty List?

  2. Great post, Gerry! It's funny how everyone is chasing big numbers because it makes them look and feel like their message is getting out there. Who cares if you have the gosh-darn greatest pictures, quotes and offers in the world if your audience is just a sliver of what it could and should be. Engagement matters and that's simply impossible with fake and inactive followers. Look forward to sharing!
    My recent post Ready for Your Shot?

  3. gerrymichaels says:

    Thanks Daniel, and you are correct, good point on the follower percentage. I am not sold on the absolute accuracy of these sites, but just having an idea is better then being blind.

  4. anthonydpaul says:

    *Companies = Company's

  5. Great post, Gerry! What sort of tools do you use to measure and analyze the engagement level of your followers? I have used http://www.justunfollow.com before but what do you recommend? Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  6. Asiah Mason, Ph.D. says:

    I feel so naive. Why would anyone buy followers? Is this a common practice? And please share the tools to keep track and analyze traffic data. Thank you for writing this piece.

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