Buying Twitter followers has been something people have been talking a lot about in the last 6 months. With it being easier and easier to do, and some people basing their entire careers on their supposed influence, the allure of double, triple or quadrupling the amount of Twitter followers someone has is too much to handle. This is evident by the growth in followers some people have had, in many cases, overnight. And while everyone suspected as much, there was never any true proof of it.

Until @StephanieFusco blogged about a website that actually makes a pretty accurate deciphering on what is real and what is fake. It also checks who is silent. Then it provides you with a score, how many are fake, how many are inactive, and how many are real. With these scores in mind, it’s easier to see who’s real and who’s fake.

This is where it gets exciting… obviously I checked a bunch of people out that I suspected of having bought followers, and no surprise… 30-50% of some common people’s followers are fake. No big surprise to me. I knew it was only a matter of time before these fake people were exposed for their bullshit behaviour and corporate abuse by lying to companies and saying they had a larger network than they truly did.

But, it gave me an idea… the idea of buying followers… where were people buying them? What did these fake followers look like? How quickly could you accumulate them?

So I set out as of about 8PM last night to test it out. I set up a new account @REALzachbussey and started buying followers. Overnight the account has grown to 26,000 followers with accounts that sorta look real, but not really… they have a real name, and a photo… but most of their usernames are a jumble of letters…. @laleks825 @nylacgugo etc. None have any tweets, no profile… and none have any followers. As I suspected.

Here’s where it gets interesting though: If you check out who these fake follower accounts follow, you learn some of the names of people who are paying for followers… and it’s a LOT of celebrities. Check for yourself: https://twitter.com/#!/nylacgugo/following,.. and according to StatusPeople….

Sean @iamdiddy Combs (his 7,300,000 are 25% Fake)
Actor @JimmyBennett (his 1,074,000 are 83% Fake)
Singer @MarquesHouston (his 851,000 are 85% Fake)
Whatever he does @JeffreeStar (his 432,000 are 63% Fake)
Rapper @RedCafe (his 394,000 are 79% Fake)
Sr VP of Shop.com @LorenRidinger (her 374,000 are 81% Fake)
Rapper @ThatsShawtyLo (his 203,000 are 81% Fake)

That’s bombshell in and of itself!

That said… there’s one other thing everyone needs to be aware of… buying followers requires no permission from the account. Essentially, you can buy followers for anyone. With or without their permission. As I’ve just experienced… just about an hour, I started getting mass followed by the same spam accounts that followed @REALzachbussey. Whoever bought these followers did so intentionally to try and lump me in with those in Toronto who have paid for followings… Fortunately with some quick action, I was able to stem the flow of follows. Here’s how…

1. Put your account on private.
2. Go to twitblock.org to quickly block and report for spam every account that managed to follow you.
3. Click ‘decline’ on every other follow that tries to come your way from the spam accounts… as you can see I have some work to do…

(UPDATE: I’ve learned that for all the followers you have that are ‘waiting to be approved’ when your account is private, disappear entirely if you set your account back to public.)

This exposes some major holes in Twitter. One’s that they will really have to start exploring. Back in the early email days, there was something called an email bomb which would overflow someone’s email inbox with emails. It was/is a serious issue and forced email providers to rethink how email functioned, and how to prevent it. Twitter now has this same issue, and they need to take it seriously.

1. If someone like Marques Houston has 851K followers, but only 128K are actual people – there is a problem with how many Twitter users the service actually has. Or Sean PDiddy Combs with 7.3M but there’s 1.8M fakes.

2. If anyone can go out buy anyone thousands of followers without any safeties in place, it can be very damaging to be portrayed as a faker (and time consuming for someone trying to fix it). This is the equivalent of a social media nuke.

3. Clearly, current safety measures to prevent fake accounts from being created are insufficient. Twitter needs to explore new ways to prevent spam, perhaps even examining the idea of a one time buy-in. $5 one time buy in FOR ALL USERS may prevent spam accounts from even being created. How many people have $125,000 around to set up 25,000 fake follower accounts?

I’m going to continue to explore this dark side of Twitter and the paid for followers and as I become aware of new issues, causes for concern or insight, I will certainly continue to add new blog posts on the issue. One thing is for sure, this is a problem that is only going to get worse unless Twitter acts now.