Most Twitter users mark success by the number of followers they've attracted. Companies in particular want potential customers to know that legions of consumers are following their every tweet.
Take Dell Outlet, a Web site for buying refurbished computers. They claim to have more than 1.5 million followers. How did they do it? Well, they didn't actually.
A new research report analyzing Twitter followers of 39 international companies—including Dell, Coke and Vodafone—indicates nearly half of Dell Outlet's followers were likely created by marketers. On the other end of the spectrum, less than seven percent of Starbuck's followers were deemed to be dummy accounts.
The researchers used software to analyze the profiles of 10,000 followers for each company they studied. Profiles with a user name, image, biography, at least 30 followers and proper punctuation, among other things, were deemed legit. Followers whose tweets contained only links to other Web sites, for example, were more than likely software-generated bot accounts.
I just hope this bit of apparent marketing manipulation doesn't discourage people from believing every single thing they see on Twitter.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]