Dead Cat, Vanity Followers, and Problems with Social Media

The number of followers a person or organization has on social media is a type of currency.  It theoretically shows how many people are influenced by your thoughts.  In practice, how reliable is this measure?

Rob Manuel, the editor of Us vs Th3m, paid just under $40 (25 pounds) to buy followers for a Twitter account for his dead cat.  Sure enough, he quickly had about 90,000 followers.  Based on Twitter analytics, exactly zero (0) of these 90,000 followers saw his first tweet.  He tried again and 340 people saw his tweet and he receive one comment from an obviously false account.  So these “followers” are most likely accounts who exist to inflate the number of followers for other people.

Once his article came out, Twitter closed the dead cat’s account.  (That’s a sentence I did not anticipate writing when I awoke this morning.)  However, this story shows both the growing importance of social media and the current trust and validity problems when it comes to the number of followers.