Now more than ever, the Internet and social media have dominated all aspects of modern life. To be seen carrying around a flip phone nowadays it considered a shameful act, while not having a Facebook or Twitter account sets off the “creeper” alarm in our society. Businesses started to understand the gravity of our Internet addiction more than 10 years ago, thus jumping on the social media cash cow and rode it all the way to the bank…or so we thought. “Selling clicks,” or the process of paying for fake endorsements such as Facebook likes or more recently buying Twitter followers, has become big business in recent years. Millions of fraudulent endorsements across multiple social media sites have exploded, causing grossly inflated numbers of people “liking” various businesses in an attempt to increase its customer base and social media presence. All the big-wig social media sites have been hit by the influx: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and even Pinterest.
Numerous “click farms” sell companies fake Twitter followers in exchange for a fee, in the hopes of improving sales and brand recognition. Fresh Followers.net, one of the many sites that sells fake Twitter endorsements offers customers a chance to buy 1,000 Twitter followers for the low price of $15 with guaranteed delivery within 1-3 days. For $50 you can pick yourself up a nice group of 10,000 new followers.
This sleazy practice is not simply limited to commercial companies however. Many celebrities have been buying followers as well to garner greater popularity within the Twitter community. Everyone, including celebrities and businesses are trying to achieve (and maintain) a mirage of a massive fan base so as to hold up against the increasingly stringent competition. This sad display is reminiscent of a puffer fish in its last moments when facing a predator, the huge size isn’t fooling anyone…you still end up as lunch.
When will this madness of buying Twitter followers end you may ask? Sadly, not anytime soon. It is projected that the buying of Twitter followers will increase exponentially in 2014. As long as there are people willing to buy, the “click farms” will keep on selling. Also, this scandal goes all the way to the top, for the US State Department was even involved in buying Facebook likes ($630,000 worth to be exact). The lack of government regulation allows for the bad business practice to continue virtually unchecked. It makes us as a society question the validity of that huge number of followers Burger King now has or if Britney Spears is truly that “likable.” The question from now on when I log in to my Twitter account will always resonate in my mind is: Will the real followers please stand up?