Jim Armitage: Why trust a company which uses fake Twitter numbers?


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Outlook When it comes to Twitter, it seems normal rules don’t apply. I mean, in how many other parts of the media industry can you buy your audience off the shelf?

But that’s exactly what businesses using the social network are allowed to do. For $20, you can buy 1,000 followers on “clickfarm” sites like fakefollowerstwitter.com. For $2,500 you get a million.

This hasn’t passed by the numerous companies seeking to publicise themselves through social media.

A little blue bird told me the other day about a new company being set up by the advertising tycoon Barry Houlihan called BreatheSport. It’s a social media site for sports stars and has some big name supporters. From the world of games comes England fast bowler James Anderson, from business Tim Brooks, the former managing director of Guardian News & Media, and from media, TalkSport radio.

It’s not even launched yet but it’s already got more than 30,000 Twitter followers. That’s enough to make it a “thing”.

But what’s this? Put those fans through a website called twitteraudit.com, which sniffs out phoney followers, and you find 28,625 are designated “fake”.

Mr Houlihan says BreatheSport’s Twitter following is “irrelevant” to his business, adding it is common practice to “create momentum” on Twitter and is “not misleading people in any way.”

Well, Mr Houlihan, you know more about these things than I do. But for Twitter, as it seeks to establish its serious marketing credentials, it raises the question: if the public can’t trust their follower figures, will they trust the companies who use it?