twitter followers fakeThe illusion of online authority and influence isn’t a new problem. For years, people have been buying fake Twitter accounts and using robots to inflate follower numbers and boost trading topics on Twitter. In fact, over a year ago, Social Selling University released an infographic that put numbers to the problem of fake Twitter followers (shown below).

At the time, 37% of the followers of Twitter’s own Twitter profile (@twitter) were fake. Today, Twitter reports that 5% of the 230 million active accounts are fake, but The Wall Street Journal reports that private researchers believe the number of fake accounts is much higher.

Citing data from Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, The Wall Street Journal reports that there were 20 million fake Twitter accounts for sale during the summer of 2013, which is 9% of Twitter’s active accounts. The researchers also found software for sale that allows spammers to create an unlimited number of fake accounts—which was confirmed in an interview with Jim Vidnar, a person who is in the business of buying, selling, and manipulating fake accounts.

The problem with fake Twitter followers mirrors the problems with search engine opimtization and Google search rankings. There is always a group of people using black-hat tactics to get around the system. When the system changes to catch more of these abusive accounts, the people behind them adapt to those new changes. The illusion of authority and influence is big business. As the infographic below shows, dealers who control 20,000 fake Twitter accounts can earn as much as $800 per day selling followings.

The illusion of authority and influence isn’t isolated to a certain industry or group. Celebrities, politicians, companies, brands, and individuals admit to buying fake Twitter followers, retweets, and more. In August, I shared an infographic about Fortune 500 CEOs using social media and mentioned the large number of CEO followers that have been identified as fake. You can view that infographic and all the details here.

Authority matters. However, the problem for Authoritative Content publishers who truly are authorities in their respective fields and publish useful and credible content is ensuring that audiences can access their content amid the clutter of fake authoritative content. Take a look at Newstex’s The Cost of Content Clutter infographic to learn about how licensed syndication can get your content seen by the right audiences.

Fake Twitter Profiles
Social Selling Software – InsideView.com

Image: Bernard Goldbach