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'Social Media Credential Fraud' Goes Mainstream

For some time now, Bradley Shear has been railing on his Social Media Law blog about a scourge that he calls "social media credential fraud." Shear observes that some people who wish to hold themselves out as experts in their profession use deceptive social media tactics to create that impression, including sharp practices to artificially inflate their number of Twitter followers.

Back in April, Shear offered an example of one self-described "social media expert" who started following Shear on Twitter. As soon as Shear followed this person back, he un-followed Shear. Shear wrote that 

This "social media expert" is desperate to keep his followers above 41,000. I mean Muammar Gadhafi desperate. His whole persona is based on the impression that he is a social media expert and has a large organic Twitter following. If he did not practice Social Media Credential Fraud he would be following tens of thousands of more people than are following him back. Last year, he wrote a blog post that said something along the lines, "I un-followed almost 50,000" people. In this rationalizing post, he stated that he could no longer focus on new followers so it was time to do a mass un-follow.

Shear was not convinced, and charged that the real reason this "social media expert" unfollowed 50,000 people was "to hide the fact that he needs to first follow tens of thousands of people before some of those people he initially followed follow him back."

This week, the concept of social media credential fraud went mainstream after presidential candidate Newt Gingrich bragged that his 1.3 million Twitter followers represented six times as many followers as all the other candidates combined. Like the social media expert discussed by Shear, Gingrich sought to boost his professional credibility by pointing to his sheer number of Twitter followers.  

According to an article in Gawker, however, only about 10 percent of Gingrich's followers are "real, sentient people." The remaining million-plus people, the article says, are just a mirage:

About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various "follow agencies," another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves. ...

Indeed, one analysis of Gingrich's Twitter following pegged the true number at just over 106,000. Gingrich, of course, denies the claim, saying that it is "a false accusation which will hurt the feelings of 1.3 million people."

Posted by Bruce Carton on August 3, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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