An Unbelievable Twitter Scheme That, Sadly, Actually Works

January 28, 2011

in Editor's Corner

There are ways to buy followers on Twitter, as we’ve seen with John’s review of SocialKik. SocialKik’ll cost you approximately $25 up to $60 to get a decent amount of followers in a week or two. That is pretty cheap.

I spent more on the book Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, than I could have spent on SocialKik. Is that not a kick in the pants? (Okay, that was bad).

The Price of a Twitter Follower… is apparently next-to-nothing.

But… as it turns out, it gets even CHEAPER. You, my friends, can have thousands and thousands of followers for the mere cost of a dinner at the Outback.

Introducing 5DollarTweets.com. Yep, you read that right. 5 bucks with them’ll get you

  • 1000 shoutouts, or
  • Access to an account that has 1000 followers, or
  • 100 RTs, which they promise will subsequently reach 50,000 followers

With the intent of either growing your following or spreading the word about whatever you want.

5 Dollar Tweets

This was news to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe these businesses existed; I just didn’t realize their power.

You’re skeptical, right? Yeah. So was I at first.

I did a little investigating. Instead of taking lunch break, I decided to play Tia the Twitter Investigation Advocate. I set out to prove this scam – this web of deceit which was robbing innocent tweeple of their hard earned 5 bucks!

The Investigation & My Hypothesis

How this all started: An account by the handle @VictoriaHuntt started following me. I’m a little careful about who I follow (despite my close follow/follower ratio), so I checked her out. Looked pretty interesting. In fact, I almost retweeted one of her little comical tweets. This account definitely had me fooled.

For some reason I did not follow “her.” Mainly, I think, because I was distracted by this tweet in “her” stream:

5 Dollar Tweets .com

Oh, really, Victoria!? $5, you say…? Hmm. Well, who can say no to something that’s only 5 bucks, right? It doesn’t even matter what it is. All that matters is that it’s only $5.

So I took the bait. I clicked the link. I immediately thought, “This is probably one of those mylikes.com things and she just made 20 cents off me!” No biggie. I was still interested.

It was then that I saw the ridiculous looking screen shot up top. I realized that this was a crazy Twitter follower-getting scheme. Worse than the others, though, because of its total cheapness. Not even a hint of sophistication.

They didn’t even have many followers as a business!

5 Dollar Creeps - I mean, Tweets

Disgusted, I took my investigation further. I wanted to see who these suckers were and prove that this kind of thing doesn’t work.

My hypothesis: The “accounts” that do all of this promotion are all fabricated, cross-following accounts that give the impression that your tweets are actually going somewhere, when they are not. That is what I set out to prove.

The Suckers (Or so, it seemed)

I’m going to do my best to conceal the identities of these suckers.

#1

Just from this tweep’s name, I immediately discredited him. Besides, the account seemed like a splog account to me, especially from the way it was being promoted (which made me throw up a little in my mouth):

I had my first sucker, I thought. 151 followers! That sure sucks. With over 1440 tweets at the time, to me, that was a sign of sucking.

First sucker down. Moving onward.

#2

It was pretty easy to detect this sucker, too. This account had 1 tweet – its first and only, apparently. 53 following, 24 followers. And lots and lots of shoutouts. Sucker. If he had just tweeted 10 times that day, he would have had 24 followers FREE.

I mean, how it is not possible for this self-improvement man to get tons of new followers, especially with tweets like, “Thank you XXX for changing my life. Keep up the good work!” from @CharlotteMorgn, @ElaineRogers1, AND @joannekerns!?!? (and that’s in addition to the RTs you see in the below image)

There were other suckers. And then there was something different.

#3

This is where I got tripped up. My investigation came to a halt. “So soon!?” I thought. “This can’t be!”

With over 4681 followers at the time, and roughly the same number of tweets as sucker #1 above, and a real website link, and a real Twitter background, I was in shock. How could a real company go for something so cheap as 5 dollar tweets!?

Because, sadly, it works.

And this account is no Twitter troll, I’ll tell you that much. They are regular tweeters with an apparently active following; they don’t just spit out links.

sucker3

How do I know they are a 5 dollar tweets client? Or, maybe a friend?

Because I searched for this account using the @ symbol and below is what I found. I have to insert such a small image because at full size, it’s 400 px wide by over 1100 px long (just click to enlarge it). It’s an entire page of nearly back to back tweets from “accounts” recommending the follow.

5-dollar-tweet-campaign

Click to Enlarge

The Piranhas

piranhaThe piranhas were easy to discover once a couple suckers were found. There was very little variation between their “shoutouts,” and of course, what with them being on rotation and all, you could go from account to account and the only difference you would see is in their photo and name. No websites are attached to the accounts, and some have no bio (some do).

The important thing to note about the piranhas…

… is that they are stealthy, sneaky little traps. I was seconds away from following one. Within a week I would probably have been following 50 without realizing what was happening. I might not have ever retweeted their cheesy shoutouts. But still, Klout status or TwitterGrader status, for example, is not only earned by the quality of your tweets; it is also earned by the quality of who is following you. So these little bots are claiming in Klout with every new, real follower that they snag.

Klout and its debatable uselessness aside, my real issue with this is that it works. These auto accounts look so real at first that they pick up non-automated accounts easily, ensnaring folks who care less than I do about their tweets. And then, real accounts start retweeting this garbage. If you ever had a hatred for captive, bathroom-stall advertising, note that this is the same exact thing.

It’s a disgrace to marketing.

The Flipside – Who Cares?

There is another side that I need to address. And that is the side of “Who cares?” If people want to buy followers cheaply and take their chances at this kind of Twitter marketing, so be it. They are not out much, right? It’s so low risk for them that they don’t care (or shouldn’t). And as for their followers, well, they should be more careful about who they follow.

I’m Not a Hater – Okay, Maybe I Am

Unfortunately, I successfully proved that my hypothesis was FALSE. These things really do work. They build followers, and not all of the followers are mind-eating tweetbots. Some are real people.

How does the saying go? Hate the game, not the player? Or, hate the player, not the game?

Whatever. In this case I hate them both.

I’m not really sure if my disgust is at the price or the process. Perhaps it is the combination. Perhaps it was that I was a near victim of a piranha, following an automated account that would use MY hard-earned clout to boost their own cheap sales.

I recommend NOT buying into these services. Your attention is worth more than $5. Or at least, it should be.

Image Credit: (piranha) Shutterstock

jamesthejust February 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Sadly, spam has infected all fun areas of the web – all to the tune of automating business. It works to an extent, but is incessantly annoying and dilutes the brand in question. I just deleted 20 faux Twitter followers with no Tweets and hundreds of followers/following hundreds…

Couldn’t see the point until your post here – makes sense. “Look, ma, I’m a spammer! I invented this obnoxious tool that auto-follows everyone on the planet, one country at a time…”

“So proud, son. So proud.”

Tia February 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm

LOL, exactly. I love your mother/son conversations.

Mitchell Allen February 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Tia, good detective work! But really, don’t hate the player. Think about this for a second: every time some so-called black hat rides into town with scheme, what happens? the white hats get just a little bit better. Innovation, like invention is a parent of necessity.

If anyone should care, it should be the folks who run Twitter. I thought they had measures in place to thwart piranhas?

Have the black hats overrun the good folk at Dry Gulch? Yikes!

As an aside, I find it highly amusing that there is such a proliferation of fiverr.com clones and concepts. It reminds me of the pixel ad rage after the success of the MillionDollarHomePage.

Cheers,

Mitch

Morgan January 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Hi Tia!

The worst part about these “companies” is that they actually get A LOT of business because people are obsessed with gaining huge numbers of followers in a short period of time so they can look awesome. They’re considering quantity over quality. They’re not realizing that finding REAL followers and fans is actually more effective, but it takes TIME.

I’ve almost fallen sucker to a few of these schemes, but have realized that it’s just not worth it. I want real people who actually WANT to follow me. Not spam bots.

Thanks for the in-depth analysis! :)

Tia Peterson January 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm

You’re welcome.

Ugh, it makes me sick that these companies are so successful! LOL So are loan sharks, but you don’t see anyone giving them a high-five for their business-savvy.

Oh well!

Alex@Jocuri January 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Hey Tia,

So you agreed with Ana that you should get followers on auto-pilot but you don’t agree with getting them this way?

Is it because you have to pay for it or because you were almost sucked into following a tweets spitting machine?

I think that everybody are free to try whatever they but and this is mainly the fault of the people that follow other blindly.

I honestly don’t blame (although I may not agree with what they are doing), they just saw an opportunity and seized it!

Tia Peterson January 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Alex,

No, no. You’ve missed a gigantic issue here. There are accounts that are not real. Hundreds and hundreds of them. These accounts go out and attempt to get real accounts to follow them. So when someone is buying 100 retweets – they are buying 100 retweets from fake accounts.

And I should clarify that way Ana and I use Twitter is completely different. I never agreed with quantity over quality and I specified that my traffic is good, and that my readership is partly the reason for that. Where I did agree with her is that yes, in order to see new traffic, you have to consistently get new followers. I took about 8 months off from Twitter (growing followers, I mean) and traffic remained high, but not “new,” so I understood what she was saying.

Hope that clears things up!

Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing January 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Another obvious fact, someone has never had dinner at the Outback. LOL!

Tia Peterson January 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Hope you’re not referring to me! I’ve had plenty of dinners there, given that I was a server there for about half a year.

If you’re talking about math… well, if $5 buys you a thousand followers, then, say $20 buys you “thousands and thousands.” And there isn’t much at the Outback over $20.

Andreas@Blog Advertising January 29, 2011 at 1:34 am

Meanwhile there is a whole lucrative industry that creates fake social networking accounts on google and facebook and sells followers or facebook fan pages by the thousand. The next big thing will be authority or social rank so it will be more and more difficult to give value to a single account.

Tia Peterson January 29, 2011 at 1:52 am

Ugh! See? That is the kinda stuff that sickens me. I like the idea of hiring a promotional company to help drive fans, but you cannot trust anyone anymore. This is the major downside of technology; it is very easy to fabricate.

And THIS is why ROI is going to make a come back. Mark my words. People are going to stop seeing numbers and even engagement as important if they don’t increase profit. Eventually social media will wear out its welcome, and these schemes are partially to blame.

KeepUpWeb January 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Thanks for the warning and all your investigative work! Don’t you just hate it that it does work? It’s just one more example of a business that can thrive today. The Internet really is the Wild-Wild-West which evokes mental images of Tia with a sheriff badge on hunting down the bad guys!

Really good post Tia. It was fun reading and I love your images (both the screen shots and the piranha).

Marlee January 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Lol! Lol!

Is this a mini rant?

Two words: Love it!

I’m with you on this one. Although I’ve got to give the entrepreneurs behind the service credit – it’s a quick buck. Obviously, however, easy come – easy go. ;)

John Garrett January 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

LOL, Tia! I can just picture you with a magnifying glass and one eye enlarged in the glass as you’re on the trail of this dastardly scheme.

Very impressive article. I’ve seen some of these accounts without really knowing what they were. Where the guy has only 1 tweet but 125 followers already.

This one seems so random that I’d be scared to try it anyway. At least SocialKik is *supposed* to target your followers.

Very funny stuff!

Tia Peterson January 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks! :) I’m nowhere near as funny as you, but I can try!

I wouldn’t even classify SocialKik in the same category, because they are a little more respectable about it. They do what everyone does; they just automate it. But creating 100 awful bot accounts and then selling their valueless tweets – that’s pretty bad!

Sonia January 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I know someone that did this and they ended with followers for no apparent reason. What’s so bad is that what they tweeted went no where, no sales, no nothing. It’s a waste of money and they wasted a ton to get tons of “non-followers”. He told me that they ended up leaving him anyway. It’s better to grow your twitter account the “slow way” where you know people following you will actually read your blog, visit your website and buy your products or services.

When it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tia Peterson January 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Hi Sonia! Could not agree more. It’s really shameful, what these companies are doing. They are smart enough to know how to create such elaborate schemes, but their intelligence is being wasted.

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