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?