Are Fashion Brands Inflating Their Twitter Accounts With Fake Followers?
By: Chelsea Burcz

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Bloggers work with brands on Twitter without pay, often times to gain exposure and more of a following. But what if the brand’s following is fake?

Fashion’s “Digital Gold Rush”

Recently, there’s been hype around how luxury brands have been tapping into digital platforms, most notably social media, for marketing and branding techniques. In this way of forward-thinking branding, fashion bloggers are often designated by brands to straddle the worlds of “fashion” and “digital” — which is why it’s essential that as a community we pay attention to how these brands are interacting with their consumers.

Fashion Week Boosts Followers

Fashion Week can be a big push for luxury brands and designers when cultivating a following on social media — so it’s no wonder that reports were published about designers that gained the “most amount of followers” in the short period of time.

According to an article posted on Business Insider highlighting social media at New York Fashion Week, the top designers that raked in followers on Twitter, based on percentages, were:

  • Rebecca Minkoff (47% increase)
  • Carolina Herrera (22% increase)
  • Tadashi Shoji (8% increase)

Mashable also published Twitter statistics from New York Fashion Week, citing the following with the biggest increase, numbers wise:

  • Victoria Beckham (+ 53,700 followers)
  • Rebecca Minkoff (+ 30,600 followers)
  • Michael Kors (+ 15,300 followers)

If you think about the short amount of time New York Fashion Week is, these numbers are astounding.

So, how are brands pulling in so many followers in such a short period of time?

Luxury Brands and Twitter Inflation

It’s no secret that celebrities, companies, and even just regular folk are purchasing Twitter followers to make it seem like they have more social media clout at a glance. It’s more likely another brand will want to pay you to tweet their hashtag if you have 40,000 followers rather than only 100 followers. But now, it seems, brands are also inflating their numbers.

Status People, a web app that discerns real Twitter followers (those who engage their accounts) from “fake” (spam or bots) and “inactive” (those who simply observe and don’t tweet), has been useful in deciphering if a Twitter account is reaching actual people. The app takes a sample of up to 1,000 followers, then identifies fakes as those with few or no followers and few or no tweets.

L2 Think Tank ran the “fake follower check” (FFC) for 96 luxury brands and made a chart of the top 10 prestige brands with the highest percentage of fake followers:

As you can see, even a hugely popular brand, like Gucci, has a fairly high percentage of fake followers. The author went on to write, that the findings “has us wondering if it’s the brands themselves perpetrating a fraud by either buying followers, or using other less-than-organic means to inflate their Twitter ranks.”

The Rebecca Minkoff Case Study

After seeing the results of the L2 Think Tank case study, we put some of the accounts that gained “flash followers” over New York Fashion Week to the test.

Rebecca Minkoff, the designer who almost doubled her following in a week, had the following FFC score at the time this article was written: 61% of her following is fake, another 15% inactive, leaving only 24% as good.

According to the Business Insider article, the brand’s following began with 64,271 at the beginning of New York Fashion Week and skyrocketed to 94,794 by the last day. But upon further investigation of their Twitter account, the actual major jump happened on September 11th with a 27,707 increase in only 24 hours, the day before that, however, September 10th, received only 15 new followers, according Twitter Counter, an app that tracks the daily growth of Twitter followers. (We fact checked the app by putting in IFB’s stats, along with our personal stats, and it was accurate.)

What’s even more is that on the day of their show, also the day of their live stream and the final day of their social media contest to win a free bag, the date of September 12th, they only gained 107 new followers.

 

If you follow the chart post-Fashion Week, you’ll notice another sharp spike in increase of followers between September 15th to 16th, this time with 31,807 new followers.

That’s 31,807 new followers in 24 hours.

And on September 17th, day after the huge increase? They lost 71 followers.

Something about the growth of their social media just didn’t sit right — what was causing these massive spikes, especially on a day that wasn’t their fashion show?

I spoke with Rahim Amlani, the Head Digital Advisor at Rebecca Minkoff, responsible for spearheading the designer’s social media initiatives, about how they strategized the brand’s account to get so many followers.

His tactics included promoted tweets and joining forces with bloggers, who often each have a hefty following of their own, and noted how their videos on YouTube have spread across the internet, some with over 175,000 views — but denied the purchase of any fake followers.

Other brands, like Nasty Gal for instance, also use promoted tweets on a daily basis, but when you plug in their Twitter handle to FFC, their score is the following: 3% fake, 15% inactive, 82% good.

When pressed further about the suspicious spikes in followers and their legitimacy, he noted that the brand was still looking into their recent social media initiatives to find out exactly where the followers were coming from.

When 61% of a brand’s following is deemed “fake” and has massive growth spikes of over 20,000, it leaves us wondering.

One designer who gained more followers than Rebecca Minkoff was Victoria Beckham, scooping up a cool 53,700 followers during New York Fashion Week alone. But when we checked her FFC score, we got the following result:

Good? Not quite. But not as skewed as Rebecca Minkoff’s. We also checked Victoria Beckham’s trajectory, and no spikes were apparent (her account typically gains between 5,000 and 9,000 new followers each day, even when it’s not Fashion Week).

Carolina Herrera, the runner up for highest percentage of new followers from Fashion Week coming in at 22%, comes in at a fairly good score: with 4% fake, 28% inactive, and 68% good.

So, what’s the point?

Working with luxury brands on social media can be beneficial — it can bring in more followers to your account and drive traffic to your blog. However, if you’re working with a brand that has mostly fake followers, is anyone actually seeing it? How many people are you really reaching? Be aware of who you are working with and how it benefits you (especially if you aren’t being paid). Look deeper into their social media reach and do your research.

How do you feel about designers and luxury brands using fake followers to inflate their Twitter accounts? Does it effect they way you work with a brand?

 

Comments

  1. Avatar of Nefertiti

    The amount of followers doesn’t influence me to follow them. I follow people I care to read about. So I don’t really see the point of fake followers.

    http://neffyg35.blogspot.com/

    • Avatar of
      snowblackblog says:

      It’s true. There are more interesting individuals I know who barely have 2K followers. For me there is no point in following, say, Dior, if I find no personal connection or interest in the brand. I want to follow brands that interact with me, the customer and blogger.

    • Annabella says:

      Fake followers and buying followers skews how everyone looks at social media and then it just becomes a numbers game. If you work hard developing a Twitter strategy and following for your own brand/blog that would really serve your followers, it’s really unfortunate that organic growth doesn’t look so good anymore. Twitter should have a new “verified” mark for those with organic followers!

  2. Bige says:

    Woww, that is a real shame!

    caramelisee.blogspot.com

  3. I think it’s disgusting, pointless and transparent. The point of a social community is activity, and, well, community.

    In buying followers it achieves nothing. A Fashion Week production in Los Angeles just did this also – I was surprised that after only 1000 tweets and 8 months in business they had almost 40K followers. A quick check on Status People showed that a whopping 90% of their followers were fake.

    It’s just gross and I genuinely wish there was a way to report that kind of activity on Twitter, I’d go as far as saying it should be an illegal practice as it’s tantamount to false advertising.

  4. Chelsea says:

    When I think of the web analytics and how it affects overall recognition of a blog, it’s easy to get discouraged when the blog is being put up against a brand/designer/what-have-you that has a seemingly huge following. And for half of that following to be fake? It’s a disappointment, all around, especially for the legitimacy of Twitter. Facebook, now that they’ve gone public, is having the same problem with fake profiles.
    I don’t follow a lot of brands or designers on Twitter; I leave that for Pinterest or Facebook, for the visuals sake. Like snowblackblog, if I follow a brand–it’s because of their interaction with me as a customer.

  5. Marlee says:

    I think it depends if they’ve bought them or not. I get fake followers on my Twitter and Instagram all the time who are just spam and I hate it. I know Twitter and Instagram employ people to make fake accounts. But I’m guessing that a lot of brands probably buy followers, which is pretty stupid and kinda ruins their credibility a bit.

  6. Avatar of Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I think its quite ridiculous that people would actually purchase followers, kind of defeats the whole purpose..

    http://www.glitzyblues.com

  7. Lindsay says:

    This was a really fabulous article – thank you, Chelsea! Very valuable content, here.

    I don’t check people’s followers before I work with them – I check EVERYTHING. I check out their ethics, I check out their reviews, I check out their history, and their current collaborations. Money, and/or the promise of it, doesn’t sway me in one direction or the other – that’s what I think is so w-r-o-n-g with this industry now that it’s growing at such an exponential rate. Contributing to that would make me a hypocrite and an enabler for more unethical media.

    In my eyes, we’re all members of the media and – should you be interested in providing real, current, applicable and important content – need to treat our partnerships as something that will be on our Permanent Record. I don’t want to work with Diet Coke & McDonalds and then go back to my eco-friendly, ethical fashion blog and report… Where’s my credibility?

    That’s the ultimate goal of participating in the media, right? To disseminate information and build credibility & trust with your audience? Well, buying up a bunch of fake credibility is not only a coward’s move, but it’s also just plain stupid! Do they think that we don’t have the technology to investigate this and call a huge, fraudulent bluff when we see it? Silly. Never underestimate the kids who grew up on Geocities, you know what I mean?

    So THANK YOU for writing this. I will spread the news and hopefully it will raise awareness and encourage people to develop ethical partnerships with the brands that deserve it.

    xo
    L

  8. Chelsea! This is an awesome article. I always wondered just HOW much of a percentage of certain brands / blogger’s followings weren’t real, because they couldn’t have THAT many actual followers. It is eye opening and sad that people feel that they have to spend money to impress people on their social media followings. It kind of reminds me of buying friends… So pointless!

  9. Meli says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article! Hype is such a big part of fashion, and now I’m seeing even beauty blogs and makeup artists with huge numbers of followers (mostly fake). I’ve also seen that people don’t seem to know or care, they just see big numbers and go with it. So frustrating, but then again I’d rather work with people who do things for real – even if they’re not social media mavericks. I will SO be using Status People!

  10. Becky Bedbug says:

    Didn’t we have an article with exactly the same content a couple of weeks ago?

  11. Erin B. says:

    I just can’t imagine them “buying” followers. Maybe I’m naive, but I have some concerns about this new website. My first concern in the accuracy. Does anyone else remember how many times Klout revised their logarithms (and probably still do) to make their numbers appear more accurate? It was a mess – my numbers ranged from 30 -70 before they got it figured out. I haven’t used this site yet (I haven’t paid for followers either) and I’m not really sure that I ever will. I don’t think the numbers are important. With or without those numbers, we know the true success of these companies, right? My second concern is over the definition of “fake” followers. I will admit that I don’t often “report” spam or bot followers – I don’t have time or the patience (and I assume that between other tweeters and Twitter itself, someone is reporting them and they disappear without my help.) If I’m not doing it, don’t you suppose that the Social Media employee(s) aren’t paying attention either? Is it not entirely possible that a spam or bot incentive was pushed hard on that one day……and that popular, easy handles to find were hit hardest? I’m just saying……

  12. Good article. I wonder, however, whether the number of bloggers who were given the Rebecca Minkoff monogrammed camera bag during NYFW had any influence on the spike in Minkoff’s followers? I know I never paid attention to the brand until I saw that camera bag suddenly appearing on blogs and Instagram.

  13. Avatar of Shop in Cedar Hill
    S. Medlock says:

    Crazy! Why would you inflate? Not even necessary. All you have to do is connect and have a genuine dialogue with people. People can tell a phony.
    http://shopincedarhill.tumblr.com

  14. Avatar of The Style Goddess

    I am not surprised that these brands and many others including your average Joe inflate their followers with fake accounts. That doesn’t sweeten the pot for me at all, it’s more of a turnoff. Like many have said before, I will only follow you if I’m interested in what you have to share and if you at least take the time to engage with your community. The quantity of followers you have doesn’t make you queen or king, it’s the quality of what you tweet and your relevance to the greater good.

  15. Rachel says:

    I’m just interested as to when someone, somewhere is going to start legislating against the use of fake Twitter followers, as I’m some cases it is blatant misrepresentation.

  16. Avatar of Stevie Wilson

    As a former print fashion editor who worked with all those brands both as an editor, freelance writer and blogger– I know that Carolina Herrera is very interesting about her social media campaigns/handling. I know that as social media – pre twitter– was launching– it didn’t strike her as important but clearly her staff, designers and more importantly her daughter had a great impact on her.

    Victoria Beckham, husband and associates.. use a lot of social media just to create buzz for themselves.. and it’s not necessarily fake.. it’s how they expose their lives.

    Minkoff and many other brands do purchase followers.. but the real deal like Nasty Gal to connect with bloggers is more authentic and creates more of a real understanding. There’s a lot more Nasty Gal could do– LOTS MORE (but that’s all I am going to say. ) As one of the pre-”social media/digital marketing” people who was implementing tactics online and IRL there’s a lot that can be done.

  17. Michael says:

    I read this article and the other one about so called “fake followers” and I don’t really understand the point of the articles. First of all, what is deemed as “fake” is the software and the algo it uses; So what do you define as a fake follower? If you follow someone and they follow you back is that fake? If someone is following people but they do not tweet (as many do) are they fake?

    If you define a real follower as someone who has a genuine interest in your blog/product/service then everyone will have fake followers, because unless your Twitter is private, you cannot really control who follows you.

    As the old phrase goes, There are lies, damned lies, and statistics ;)

  18. Well done IFB. From someone who earned her 21,000 followers the hard way–tweeting meaningful content and forging relationships–it really peeves me to see the system manipulated. This is just one of the many reasons I don’t follow big brands–I really like to focus on individuals.

  19. Avatar of tiffany_loh
    tiffany_loh says:

    Personally, I think the whole concept of buying followers is misleading and dishonest as it portrays an inaccurate representation of the brand to consumers.

    But unfortunately, that’s the nature of the fashion and PR and it’s probably something we’re going to have to get used to as more and more brands embrace internet and social media marketing. We’re seeing it everywhere, there are even exclusive blogger platforms which only allow style bloggers to wear paid-for-promotion threads!

    http://www.petitestreet.net

  20. This is very interesting especially with the number of brands offering ‘payment’ in exposure via their social media channels. I checked my own account: 1% fake, 9% inactive, 90% good. This makes perfect sense to me, of course everyone gets some spam followers and I do try to block them, some people don’t really use their accounts after the initial novelty wears off but the majority of followers follow because they want to know what you say, some interact and others just read or use it as an alert to new blog posts etc. I will be including these stats in my future media packs and I will certainly be checking out how brands approaching me square up. One thing I think we should bear in mind however is that someone like Victoria Beckham may be seen as more ‘valuable’ to fakers/spammers due to their social presence therefore they may attract a high percentage of fakes.

  21. Avatar of Kholá
    Kholá says:

    The fake followers don’t surprise me as I’ve read about this with celebs. Sad though.

  22. Avatar of Emily
    Emily says:

    To think brands will pay people to follow them is counterproductive. Plain and simple. Personally, I don’t consider number of followers to be important when deciding to follow them, and I’m sure many would agree. So, I suppose they’re free to waste their money as they see fit? It’s definitely a cheat attempt at elevating their status, but people have done and paid for worse… I suppose.

  23. Jamie says:

    i don’t really like following big brands because there isn’t really much interaction with them. i’d much rather have followers and follow people on twitter who i can actually have interactions with. it makes twitter much more fun and interactive, while bigger brands with thousands of followers tend to just promote their brands, which gets old really fast, especially if their tweets are filling up the majority of your twitter feed.

  24. Avatar of Nina
    Nina says:

    Great article and really sheds light on the situation. As a business school graduate, I think that it is important to change the way we measure success. Two years ago “followers” and “likes” were relevant but now that people know how to work the system, quality is what should matter.

    Style insights and fashion business learnings:
    http://www.mouthfulofstyle.blogspot.com

  25. instagirl says:

    What I don’t understand is why low-level bloggers like Jordan Reid Berkow Strauch of Ramshackle Glam (www.ramshackleglam.com) purchase fake followers on both Twitter and Instagram. She is 63% fake on Twitter according to the stats and much more fake on Instagram.

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