Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fake Twitter followers - my two cents

Yesterday, British Beauty Blogger Jane Cunningham wrote a piece on Fake Bloggers and it's something we'd discussed a couple of months ago, when I asked her expert opinion on whether a certain account had a lot of fake followers.  I was going to write something at the time, but didn't because it would have consisted in me saying "WE KNOW YOU BOUGHT FOLLOWERS YOU GOBSHITE" and other such expletives!  I'm in a better place now and after encouragement from Jane yesterday to highlight the issue more, here's my two cents.  And let me preface this by saying this is a post directed to brands and PRs over bloggers as I'm sure I'll be accused of bullying or targeting for even bringing this up, but it has to be highlighted.

Late last year, I noticed strange activity on a Twitter account.  Without going in to the nitty gritty, naming names or bullying anyone, their followers doubled in a matter of days and I got suspicious.  But I gave them the benefit of the doubt and watched the numbers jump up and down by the hundreds over the space of days.  I stopped checking the account until recently when it was mentioned to me that it was happening again.  A quick look through their most recent followers confirmed my suspicions as each profile was fake, with one or two random tweets from a couple of years ago and Jane's piece tells you how to spot a fake follower.

Now, I don't care what people do with their Twitter accounts.  But when PRs and brands are involved and they're sending out products to bloggers based on the influence they think they have from their numbers, then that changes things.  In Ireland, the whole beauty blog thing is still quite new and in the (nearly) three years I've been doing it, I've watched the number of blogs increase from a handful to hundreds, which is great!  I'm a huge fan and big supporter of new bloggers and often look to them to see if they'd like to guest post on the blog. 

It can be daunting starting off with so many established blogs out there already.  But let me tell you, the satisfaction of hitting little milestones is worth the hard work that goes into blogging.  I still get excited when I get a new follower, or hit a statistical milestone.   You can look back over your blog and thing "Yeah, I did that".  Since starting YouTube, Joanne and I have been watching our followers and views grow and you can't buy that kind of excitement.  In saying that, those who buy followers, or even think about it, have a different mindset altogether. 

If you think you're being spammed by bots, then it's your responsibility to block and report them on Twitter.
Ignorance isn't an excuse.  There are apps out there that help you remove the fake accounts and if all fails, do it the old fashioned way, go through them one by one.  Try something like TwitBlock to help you filter through the fakes and inactive accounts.

So PRs across the land, please use this tool to check the % of real and fake followers of bloggers on Twitter.  http://fakers.statuspeople.com/  Google Friend Connect is disappearing soon, so follower numbers won't mean anything.  It's going to be all about stats and hopefully everyone will have Google Analytics installed on their blog.  Don't be afraid to ask for screenshots of stats as those can't be manipulated and are a true representation of a blog's reach.  Know that 99.9% of bloggers have done the hard graft and built their blog up slowly, honestly and with integrity and will continue to do so.  As the Dolly Rouge ladies said yesterday "The cream rises to the top" and I couldn't have put it better myself.
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36 comments

  1. I can't wait until that GFC widget goes, because then everyone's on a level playing field, and content has to speak for itself. There's too much emphasis on numbers and on being the biggest and being the best. I love the little milestones too, and I love the little thrill when you are RT'd by someone you've reviewed, or when you get a comment from someone you admire. It still takes time to write posts, take photos, use products - buying followers makes that all look redundant and that's a shame that all that hard work is overlooked due to trying to jump ten steps ahead of yourself. On the subject of Google Analytics - I checked mine last night and it hadn't been working in months, so people might want to check theirs and maybe uninstall & reinstall if necessary, I had to do it and it's working 100% now. The truth will out, wha? Fair play for writing this, needed to be said.

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    1. Thanks a million for the comment Sharon. I'm with you on the GFC front, as the numbers mean nothing other than being little milestones to hit and keep you going until you reach the next one!

      Thanks for the heads up re Google Analytics, the same thing happened to me and I was raging! No stats for a month!

      Thanks again missus

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  2. I am only a new blogger and i didn't know that, thanks for the heads up on that. I will stick with the excitement of earning my milestones it gives me such a boost and builds my confidence. Thanks you!

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    1. Thanks for the comment Lilliwhite, keep on working away :)

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  3. I can't imagine that a blogger would go to the expense and trouble of buying twitter followers just to gain a few extra freebies. Especially in an Irish context, if it's not true then it's a terrible thing to say and one which should not be discussed without concrete proof. Furthermore I always believe in life whether you're in a job or playing sports, running a race or indeed writing a blog that you should focus on your own performance rather than Eyeballing competitors. Truly this post and ones like it which I've seen on other blogs are off putting and irrelevant to the reader. Ppl like myself don't want to bear witness to ugly blogging politics, I'm sorry I've sung the praises of your blog many times but this just seems like a self indulgent rant from somebody who should know better

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really do appreciate it. Let me start by saying there is nothing self indulgent about this post at all. I knew I was going to be labelled a "bully" and a "crazy bitch" but you know what, this had to be said. It's an absolute shame that things like this go on, and as I said in the post, this was for the PRs who I work with and are up to their eyes with bloggers asking for samples. This is much bigger than me.

      As for focusing on our own blogs, everyone in the Irish beauty community does that, but we also support each other and regularly read and leave comments on them. We also notice when things don't add up and the fact that I've had eight different people tell me they've noticed suspicious behaviour, makes me happy I brought this up. I'll take the flak from the bad eggs because this is a lovely community we've established here and all it takes is for one bad egg to taint the names of the rest of us.

      I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this post and normal service will resume now.

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  4. Karen - thanks for raising this issue, it's a hard one to put on your blog because there are people who aren't interested in what is mostly seen as a blogger/pr issue. Personally, I think it's more than that as a reader I want to read reviews where I think the blogger has integrity. Lest we forget, this is the reason that beauty blogs took off because of the advertorial and partisan leanings of the magazines.

    However, I've said this before but I really really think bloggers are becoming very close to being tarred with exactly the same brush, between undisclosed samples and sponsored posts not being labelled as so, some blogs are falling in to then exact same model as the magazines.

    I feel if bloggers don't self-regulate in some way the whole blogosphere (what a terrible term, but I can't think of anything better) gets the blame. I don't know how bloggers self-regulate but mobs and pitchforks aren't the way but it's the other bloggers who are getting offered the same samples and sponsored posts who are the ones who are going to notice, this behaviour.

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    1. Thanks a million for your comment missus. On the blog, there are lots of posts that don't interest everyone, but a lot of my readers are fellow bloggers and PRs. You can't make everyone happy eh!

      Everyone was in the thick it when it came to the whole asking for money to review products debacle and bloggers selling samples because at the heart of it, we all want to be seen to have integrity and when fellow bloggers go outside of that, we become afraid that readers and companies will think it's the norm. There aren't any mobs or pitchforks where I'm concerned and haven't named anyone. I'm highlighting that it's happening.

      Our reputation is all we have on the internet and buying followers, be it Twitter or GFC is fraud. Plain and simple.

      I'm glad that Makeup Monster and the Dolly Rouge ladies set up the Irish Beauty Blogger's network and hopefully it'll be a way of self regulating like you said.

      Thanks again for commenting :)

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    2. I just wanted to say I wasn't accusing you of being or inciting a baying mob avec le pitchforks , in case that's not clear. I get the impression there was a baying mob out for blood on twitter and facebook, from some comments I've seen. I don't have much time for twitter and blog reading at the moment, so have missed nearly all of what went on.

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    3. Ah fanks lady. Sure when drama ensues, a few mobs avec their pitchforks set up camp! I've not read Twitter at all today apart from tweeting my own bits. The message was delivered and everyone is more aware now.

      Hope you get a bit of free time soon to catch up on the blogs (minus the drama!), you're missing some great products and I've lots of naily posts coming up soon :)

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  5. Hey lady, i have so many thoughts on this that I can't constructively put it all into words at the minute so I am not going to attempt it just yet lol! I will pop back and comment once I have mulled over it more x

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  6. ps I am blaming pregnancy brain. Its a thing; I swear! Apparently I woke himself up this morning screaming something about chickens...

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    1. Haha chickens?? Is this a possible craving or are you just enjoying the birdies themselves? ;)

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    2. i don't even recall it K. Himself said his alarm was going off and that set me off!

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  7. Hi Karen, just to add in here that the definition of fraud is this: "A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities." It's actually a little bit more serious than most people realise. As for self regulating - so many people are asking for a regulatory body for blogs but I can't see that as possible, so self-policing, although a strong word, is something we have to do. I mind when new bloggers miss out at the expense of someone who pretends, I mind that brands are bamboozled and I very much mind that the true slogger-bloggers who put their heart and soul into their blogs are being sidelined in favour of scammers.

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    1. Thanks for that Jane. When I first started the post, I was focusing more on the ethical side of it and never even thought of the fraudulent aspect of it.

      Thanks for your comment

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    2. To be honest when this was raised I just thought what feckin chancers - I never thought about fraud. Its up to the readers to choose what they read but I imagine some PR companys feel more than a little cheated

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  8. Hi Karen,

    Having read BBB's post the other day and now yours, I have to say I am actually rather appalled by this whole 'let's call out people with fake followers' thing.

    If PR's and brands want to work with people who have fake followers or fake stats, then let them. It is not up to bloggers to police who gets what and monitor 'suspicious' activity. Surely we should be concerned with our own blog, our own content and our own relationship with PR's or whoever?

    Publicly 'calling out' people with fake Twitter followers is - in my opinion, very nasty, not to mention a complete waste of time. Let's not forget that there is an actual person behind each of these Twitter accounts, regardless of what they have 'done' to, god forbid, upset a blogger.

    I'm sure you are aware Karen, that London Beauty Queen publicly called out a girl on Twitter yesterday about the fact that she had fake followers. I cannot express to you how utterly appalled I am by this behaviour. Publicly bating someone in such an audacious manner is terrible and nothing short of bullying.

    I know that you were not involved in this Karen but I truly feel that by writing a post like this, you are encouraging this type of behaviour.

    Having joined the blogging community around the same time as you, and having met so many great people - yourself included, I'm quite saddened to see these kind of posts. I think people have forgotten why we decided to blog in the first place. How did we go from wanting to show off an amazing lipstick or talk about the latest MAC Collection to this?

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    1. Hi Simone

      Not once have I publically called anyone out or named and shamed anyone. And I genuinely didn't see LBQ calling anyone out yesterday on Twitter. I've highlighted that this is happening and that's what's appalling. People being disingenuous for free products?

      You're right, it's up to the PRs to decide whether to work with bloggers with fake stats and fake numbers, but they don't know it's happening and now they do. They can make informed decisions now.

      I feel saddened to feel that compelled to write a post like this Simone and you know me and the blog and what I'm about. 99% it's about make up but when an issue like this comes up, I can't sit on my hands and let it go unaddressed.

      This goes far beyond being a blogger issue and you know that. And as for the bullying, I'm not bullying anyone. I know I'm being attacked on Facebook and Twitter right now for this post and it's ok. I'm a big girl and I'm not backing down, nor am I calling it bullying.

      Thanks for commenting Simone

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  9. Karen,

    If you read my comment, you will see that I didn't say you were bullying anyone.

    You might not be naming and shaming, but surely saying "So follower buyers, we're on to you! If you're going to buy Twitter followers, prepare to be called out on it" means that you are planning to do so in the future, does it not?

    And of course I know you and the blog. Who is writing about this topic, regardless of whether it's you or BBB - who I also support, doesn't change how I feel about it. I'm still for your blog, I'm just against your point of view on this topic.

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    1. Sorry if I misunderstood you Simone, just when I read that "Publicly bating someone in such an audacious manner is terrible and nothing short of bullying", that's what I read into it, but if it's not what you meant, then that's grand.

      I would never, ever, ever publically name anyone, otherwise I would have already and maybe my choice of words weren't appropriate. I'll rethink the wording and genuinely never wrote it with that literal intention, so I appreciate that and will reword it this evening when I'm not pretending to work.

      I knew this would be a controversial topic and knew that not everyone would agree with me. Maybe next time I'll pick a lighter topic ;)

      Thanks Simone

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  10. I think the most important issue here is that it's clear that PRs, brands and readers WEREN'T AWARE that some bloggers are being intentionally deceitful/misleading. Credibility is key for blog readers, and Karen and Jane are just informing blog consumers that you can't judge a book by it's cover. They're doing readers, brands and PRs a service by highlighting this issue.

    Karen and Jane have acted with integrity and bravery, tackling such a contentious issue and NOT succumbing to bullying tactics, which less considerate bloggers have.

    Some people may have preferred to not have known that some of the beef they ate in the past was intentionally filled with horsemeat. However I doubt that they would deny consumers the right to know that this happened, so that they can make informed choices in the future. Karen and Jane have simply helped readers make more informed choices about the blog content they consume.

    And that's my 2c!

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    1. Thanks for your 2 cents Kat, now we have 4 cents! I think it's very telling that those who are accusing me of igniting a mob mentality are doing the same thing with me now. They're the ones who wanted to name and shame bloggers who were charging for reviews and selling samples. It's ok. I knew when I posted this that I'd take a lot of flak for it but I couldn't sit back and watch it happen.

      I highlighted it and named nobody. As you said, now brands, companies and readers alike, can make informed decisions and know what to look out for now.

      Thanks a mill for your support Kat.

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    2. To be honest, there will be those who disagree with what you do because they genuinely disagree (difference of opinion is fine as long as it can be discussed respectfully). And then there will be those who "disagree" because they have something against you, and/or their own agenda.

      You handled this impeccably, nothing more you can do x

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  11. Thanks for writing this post Karen. People work so hard on their blogs so when follower numbers start to rise and you start getting a little bit of recognition it's very exciting. For someone to be so cynical as to buy followers is shocking and pretty sad in my opinion.

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    1. I didn't know about it either until late last year and then after reading Jane's post, I learned that you can buy bots to watch your YouTube videos?!

      Thanks Sile/Stila ;)

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  12. Hi Karen

    Firstly I would like to say that unless yourself and Jane wrote about this I would never know that it was happening, When I joined twitter I thought the only "Fake" followers were prostitues trying to get some business. I might be living in my own little world but I dont see any reason you would do this (your only lying to yourself) other than gain attention of PR 's. But I image that these will be the same people who would ask for samples of everything that is on offer rather than products your interested in. With our blog every follower that we gain is cause for hurrah and every comment is a joy to read (except the spam - doh).

    I do think that even if they have fake followers (or whatever madness) they are probably still taking pictures and writing posts and its up to the readers if they want to read. I know personally I have my list of trusted and loved blogs that I read and others that are not my cup of tea.

    I dont think you called anybody out and to be honest im sure a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering who you are talking about.

    I think 99.99% of people have nothing to hide and are just blogging because they love beauty. On the occasions that we have been invited to beauty events I am overjoyed (most of the time literally busting a gut with excitment) but sometimes I feel like I should not be there cause I am not a press person and then I question my little blog.

    Although I missed most of what was going on in twitter (the building I work in is a dead zone internet wise) I would say that the site to check your fake followers probably got more hits in the past couple of days with us all curious if our twitter followers were real or not :)

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    1. That's exactly it Mags, buying followers is to get noticed by PRs, because it doesn't increase your stats. I strive to get good photos, write (hopefully) funny and informative posts and take a lot of time doing it. What's the point if your followers are fake? The majority of bloggers write about beauty because we love it and any perks like invites or samples is a lovely surprise.

      I hope I opened some eyes with this post.

      Thanks a mill for your comment Mags, appreciate it

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  13. Thanks for your gracious reply Karen. One thing I'm guilty of which may be true of a lot of ppl on this small island is this- I'm not active on Twitter but I do have an account. However the odd time someone asks me to follow a page on twitter or like a page on Facebook and it's no biggie to do this. Maybe that's the situation in this case ESP if the person in question has a lot of friends and a large network.
    This post did come across a little aggressive which was possibly not your intention. Anyway maybe there was a simpler explanation, it's worth considering...

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    1. Hi i-Line, thanks again for commenting. Ah I know that there are lots of people on twitter who are inactive and sign up so they can enter giveaways and that's only grand. All it takes is a quick look at their profile and read their tweets which are generally entries into competitions and giveaways. I did a quick check of my followers and some that showed up as fake were accounts set up for giveaways and that comes with the territory of holding competitions.

      Over the last 3 years, I've held dozens of giveaways on the blog. And yet I only have a 4% faker rating. There's a big difference in 4% and 20% and a quick glance of that 20% showed me fake accounts. Not inactive ones. Fake ones. I'm pretty sure that an explanation for the fakes on the account I was looking at will be that they were competition entries. Not 20% worth for a handful of giveaways. I know what to look for when it comes to fake and inactive. I also know what to look for in activity in a Twitter account and jumps of 500 up and down over a couple of days is suspicious.

      I'm sorry you felt the post came across as aggressive. That wasn't my intention at all. Most of my posts are lighthearted and fun and I'm probably not used to putting my serious voice on!

      Thanks again missus

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  14. Awesome, this was a really quality site. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real effort to make a good site... but what can I say... I procrastinate a lot and never seem to get something done.

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  15. Firstly, apologies this comment is coming so late in the day as I've been up to my ears but I couldn't let the day pass without saying that I 100% support this post and you, Karen.

    Not all readers are interested in the 'politics' behind the blogging community and that's A-OK, just skip the post, right?

    I personally didn't read aggression, ranting or self indulgence in your post, just simply bringing to the fore an issue that has been festering for months now and highlighting to brands and PRs something that they had no idea happened.

    As Jane quite rightly says (and I never considered before) buying followers to make yourself appear more influential and subsequently receive samples, collections and invites is fraud, plain and simple.

    As a Mam who works full time and has often sat up bleary eyed into the night to get a post right I personally see this fraud as an affront to me and to all the ladies that do exactly the same.

    As I have told my lads since they were small 'If you can't play fair, don't play at all'.

    Sorry for the rant. (Totally not sorry)

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  16. Hi Karen, I don't see your post as being aggressive, not in the slightest. It's your opinion and your two cents on the matter, you are only human and you can't please everybody. Also, some things affect people differently so if you felt the need to write about this then it was your choice and well done for the courage. It doesn't make you a bad person for being open about something that bugs you.

    I personally stand somewhere in between on this matter in the sense that while fake bloggers don't affect me directly or bother me, I can totally get why they would tick hard working bloggers off, and even those peeps who indeed make a living out of blogging. In my opinion also, it's a good thing to make this public, so props for having the guts to do this.

    That being said, I do think that while all opinions are welcome, pin pointing at fake bloggers publicly is not the way forward (which again Karen, I know you did NOT do). I'm just putting myself in the shoes of those bloggers, and I presume they are really feeling the pinch right now and can't help but feeling a bit sorry for them. This is a bit blown out of proportion at the moment, but things will settle down in a few days and will go back to normal:-).

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  17. This implies that the higher your followers, the more likely you will get more popular to people including potential consumers.

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