The rise of fake followers on social media

August 29, 2020 3:56 PM

According to a Twitter Audit, 38% of Amitabh Bachchan’s followers are fake, while only 48% of Shah Rukh Khan’s are real

Celebrities often try increasing their publicity by buying fake followers.Celebrities often try increasing their publicity by buying fake followers.

By Priyan DC

Anamika from Bhopal with 5600 followers today had created an Instagram account a few months ago and paid a new media startup to help inflate her followers. She did this to help her boost her image in the social sphere and to grow up the ranks as a social media influencer. She is part of a growing band of social media influencers who look to endorse anything from cars to cosmetics to condoms among their followers for a fee.

This is exactly what popular Indian Rapper Badshah did by paying Rs 75 lakhs to increase his followers/viewers by 75 Lacs. Well the jury is out on this one, with both yay and naysayer’s in equal numbers debating the ethics of this growing trend. Truth be told, this phenomenon is on the rise as people in the entertainment sphere are keen on increasing their followers and statistics as it is a reflection of their popularity and success. The companies who engineer this charge generous amounts of money to hype one’s social media presence by bumping up followers, viewers, retweets, likes, shares, etc. with the use of fake accounts.

How does it work?

Ironically many social media influencers out there mostly comprises of fake accounts. In other words, they do not have meaningful influence over a real audience but have impressive numbers backing them. In many cases, there may even be a group of people or an organization behind an influencer. Hence, one needs to be cautious while choosing influencers to promote their brands.

On the other hand for those who are looking to increase their fan following or social media influence with increased engagement and likes, there are companies that offer various services. Such companies typically run multiple websites. People could go to the websites or pages and buy fake followers, subscribers, views and likes for their social media accounts by paying online as per rack rates. They do this by creating a fake account of a person that doesn’t exist. They would then use fake images from stock photos or hire a model to pose and then upload it onto fake accounts.

It is well documented that India with its bursting population and growing internet and smartphone penetration is the world’s largest market for most social media platforms, including Facebook. This makes this large pool of users knowingly or unknowingly follow and comment on social media profiles, often with just a pretty display picture on it.

Bollywood and its Followers

Interestingly, this is a prevalent trend in Bollywood. Celebrities often try increasing their publicity by buying fake followers like in the Badshah case. However it has emerged that this growing trend is also a double edged sword, as very often these fake followers also end up stealing the influencer’s data. This happens by these followers taking advantage of their association with the celebrity and promoting themselves surreptitiously. There have been several instances of such followers stealing the designs of leading designers and promoting as their own.

According to a Twitter Audit, 38% of Amitabh Bachchan’s followers are fake, while only 48% of Shah Rukh Khan’s are real. It sounds unbelievable and surprising too. And if we dig deeper you will find that Priyanka Chopra has the highest percentage of real followers that is 71 percent while SRK has the highest percentage of fake followers that is 52 percent. This is as per Twitter data recorded in 2019.

According to Kamala Bryant, a PR Manager who finds influencers to promote products on Instagram,  three out of every ten influencers she comes across have fake followers. She uses various tools and apps to identify and filter them, so she knows who to avoid. She believes that this is a toxic culture and adds, “Influencers who are buying their followers are not going to care so much about what brand they are working with because they are fake and this will do more damage than good in the long run”.

Sara Tasker, an Instagram coach and author believes that influencers who buy fans or followers are outright fraud. “ From a business perspective, if you’re working as an influencer, it’s outright fraud really,” Sara says. “A little bit of faking might seem harmless for anyone who fancies themselves as an influencer but it could damage both their own chances and the industry in general”.

Organic and ethical means of brand building is the need of the hour, as anything that a brand does is a reflection of its qualities and principles. While performers like Badshah can afford to use such tactics as it’s for an individual, it is suicidal for any growing brand or company to adopt such tactics.

The author is CEO of Star Squared PR.

Read Also: How phygital marketing will impact consumer behaviour

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