Social media is the new marketing frontier, and any business that plans to stay relevant has to adapt to new trends. Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms, and small businesses are learning to put it to good use, as tech writer Joel Newman points out, by doing market research and building relationships through interaction. And as the Twittersphere expands, only those businesses that can attract more followers will be able to maintain attention—or so some say.
The theory is this: The more followers you have, the more noticeable your presence, the more followers you’re likely to get, and the more reach you’ll have. But for small businesses, this is a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma. How can you build a large audience to attract a large audience, without a large audience? The solution: For a fee, you can buy Twitter “followers” to gain popularity. Here we detail the pros and cons for those wondering if paying for Twitter followers is a worthy investment.
As Twitter’s popularity has exploded in the last few years, many pay-for-followers services have sprung up, promoting the benefits of an extended Twitter network, based on the following.
1. Popularity rules. The more followers you have, the more impressive you will seem. Because social media relies on collective opinions, customers or other tweeters will stumble upon your profile and notice your clout.
2. Increase search engine rankings. As search engine alogrithms from Google evolve and take social media popularity into account, the more followers you have, the higher rankings you will earn in search engines.
3. Expand your reach. A larger network not only expands your immediate reach and ability to promote your brand and business (hopefully getting new customers), your followers’ ability to retweet, share, and recommend means you will be reaching many more people, and enticing them to follow you as well.
4. It’s inexpensive. There are many companies selling Twitter followers, which means the price is kept relatively low. Though the quality of followers these companies offer varies widely, most charge a few cents (sometimes less) per follower. So if you just want to try it out as an experiment, you won’t be out major bucks.
1. Followers are not always the real deal. Many argue that quality is more effective than quantity in terms of Twitter followers. Because there are so many companies (not all reputable), eager to make a buck, some “followers” are not much more than spambots. As J.J. McCorvey of Inc.com found when he bought followers as an experiment, the quality varies greatly by company and price point: $20 got him 1,000 followers, though most were inactive Twitter users who did not tweet much or have large followings. His $18 for 2,000 targeted followers earned a few retweets, but not a ton of engagement. If you don’t do your research and find the right company, you may end up with a whole lot of nothing.
2. No definitive ROI. Simply having followers won’t give your business the visibility and engagement it needs to generate a worthwhile return on investment. For a small business owner, attempting to engage a larger, inactive network can cost more effort than its worth. Like McCorvey, Stephen Baker of Businessweek purchased followers, but found they were inattentive and did not respond when he messaged them specifically. Worse, he received generic spam from them. You may spend more time trying to get a response from 1,000 people than you would from 100 quality, interested followers who can actually generate new business for you.
3. Some require personal account info. Some companies require your account password to access your account and encourage followers. This can be risky to your online reputation and, in the hands of a shady company, can be used for malicious purposes.
4. Twitter doesn’t allow it. Twitter encourages best practices to keep the community safe from spammers. Many of these services know how to subversively attract followers without getting caught by Twitter. If you want your company to be completely above board and follow the most ethical practices, this is not the way to go.
Though there may be some advantages to buying Twitter followers, there are many more critics who are suspicious of the practice and its efficacy. Successful social media interaction relies on engaged followers who have a vested interest in following your brand and with whom you can establish a genuine relationship. Buying fans violates that authentic bond, and the quality of follower is often even lower than the cost. A small business can likely benefit more by building a modest but solid Twitter following the old-fashioned way, and implementing established techniques to grow their Twitter network.
Do you think buying Twitter followers is a good idea? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.