Facebook NZ sales rep hit by fake follower controversy
Mr Khan – who had more than 28,000 followers – gave no reason for the reset (he now has 20 following), and Facebook ANZ’s usually accessible policy manager did not immediately respond to an NBR ONLINE request for comment yesterday afternoon.
However, hiss account has been changed to protected mode, indicating some degree of sheepishness.
Rumbles hit the public relations scene on Friday. Independent PR contractor Julie Landry told NBR Twitter was “going wild” as people used the Status People site to check various social media gurus’ accounts for fake followers.
In fact, various name social media names, such as John Lai (8%) and Justin Flitter (6%) and Vaughn Davis (2%) scored low fake counts, despite their large numbers of followers – and big accounts will always attract bots (all had a degree of inactives, but I don't see that as necessarily negative. Many genuine people actively follow Twitter without posting much themselves).
But one apparent offender stood out.
And yesterday Computerworld used Status People to reveal 94% of Facebook account manager Khan’s followers were fake.
ABOVE: How Khan's Twitter profile looked yesterday. He's since dropped the reference to his employer. His LinkedIn profile is here.
Beyond ethical considerations, buying followers violates Twitter’s terms and conditions.
And Khan's case does raise questions. While the likes of Lai and Flitter have built their followings over years, tech writer Juha Saarinen said on Twitter that Khan’s follower count suddenly leapt from around 1800 to around 30,000 on July 23.
This morning Saarinen told NBR he used Twittercounter.com to get a historic read on Khan's followers - since Khan's account is now protected, it can no longer be scanned through the service.
$15 for 1000 followers
This controversy has been brewing since PR blogger Bill Rundle detailed an experiment in which he discovered how easy it was to buy fake Twitter followers (for $12.50 per 1000).
And there was also lots of grumbles after I ranked the most popular MPs on Twitter – and various commenters and opposition MPs pointed out many of the prime minister’s followers look like bots.
Rundle said his The Corporate Lunchbox Twitter account was stuck on 30 followers, despite following everyone on the Auckland food scene.
But after he bought 2000 followers, he gained instantly credibility and @CorpLunchbox started to get followed back (now shed of its bought shell accounts, it has 174 followers)
It only took a quick glance to realise Rundle’s new recruits, bought from buyrealfollowers.com, were obviously bots, with a handful of meaningless posts each and no real followers.
But most people don’t even give it a quick glance, they simply assume lots of followers equates to gravitas.
In case you were wondering...
At this point, ego demands I point out yours truly has a low fake follower count (and I was disappointed it was 2%, I like to think of myself as meticulous about weeding out bots - and I do get a lot who try to cling on, unsolicited.)
And it does irk me that many of follower-checking services scream about “inactives”; many genuine people tend to lurk most of the time rather than actively post. And like most such services, no one knows anything about Status People, bar the fact its UK-based website seems legit). @theNBR, which I moderate, is also pretty clean.
I disagree with Rundle that a disproportionate number of Followers to Followed is an indicator of fake followers. A well-known person might not find it possible to follow everyone back.
Or a less light my simply be following a lot of people through lists, whose member numbers don't show up in a Twitter Following count (and in terms of actually keeping tabs on my followers, I only use a couple of personal and lists to keep active tabs on a few people. That, plus key word alerts, is the practical path once your follower numbers swell).
It’s also worth noting that fake followers don’t imply fraud per se.
John Key has a reasonable number of fakes according to Status People (although even allowing for that his straightforward Twitter stream is still the most followed of any NZ politician by some distance).
I think that’s simply a reflection of the fact any sizeable account attracts a lot of bots, and the team running the PM’s account haven’t got around to weeding them out.
And, of course, Key is not pitching himself as a social media guru.
For Facebook’s Khan, working at the sharp end of the social media scene, it’s not looking so good.
If you're a real human, then by all means:
The humans are dead
I was reading a story on Forbes' website which, like many of its earnings preview briefs, created by Narrative Science (not a very good story by the way, given its lack weighting for seasonality factors, and the dominant narrative in Activision's share price story at the moment – whether Vivendi can offload its 60% stake).
Such automatic story generators raise the delicious possibility that a story can be created by software, then read by a bot who gets served an Ad Word by Google.
No humans required.
Except, that is, the chump who paid for the Google ad.