February 13, 2018

6 reasons why most social media influencers are fake

People make money fooling the gullible - and this has been there since ages. You can call such people cheats but a better definition of most such people will be that they are 'guys who arrived there before others'.

If thieves and outright fraudsters are coming to your mind, forget them. I am talking about smart guys on the www.

Take the example of old SEO people. The made huge money by just repeating a keyword ten times in the 'keyword meta-tag' of their website/ blog because search engines thought that such websites/ blogs were highly relevant for that keyword and thus placed them on top of search results.

There are hundreds of such examples. Let's take a fresh example before we come to 'influencers'. Fake news has spread on social media to such an extent that Facebook, Twitter and others are blowing their horns to tell what great actions they are taking against it. Before the tech biggies can take credible actions against the fake news spreaders, the fake-news would have served its purpose well.

Now, social media influencers. There are thousands of social media practitioners who show off their new-found identity on the www and also in the real world. You visit a class on making money through blogging and you'd find them; they are there on tutorial sites teaching their techniques; they are even in social gatherings, flashing their visiting cards as social media influencers!


Good or bad, the social media influencer is a 'big' guy!


Who is really a social media influencer?



A good working definition to go by will be like this: A social media influencer is the one who has high reputation on the web and has a big number of followers who believe him and therefore their  opinions are likely to be influenced by his recommendations.

By this definition, big bloggers who get a good number of comments and social shares on/for his blog, Facebook entities with multi-thousand followers and thousands of 'likes' on their posts,  Twitterati with enormous number of followers, and similar big guys on other social networking and bookmarking platforms are indeed 'social media influencers'.

But there is a catch. No, many catches! Let's now count them:

1. Most followers are fake.
It has been found that a good number of followers of many world leaders are fake. Most politicians have fake follower numbers on Twitter. During the last general elections in India, some politicians' followers rose overnight from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands and most of them were found to be from Ujbekistan and other countries least relevant for Indian elections!

2. Many followers have been bought or are mutual back-scratchers.
People who want to show the world they are social media influencers work on many fronts, and buying followers is part of their strategy. Besides outright fake followers (discussed above), one can buy 'real' followers whose accounts have been created at the back-end of tech teams. They keep creating a large number of accounts and even keep maintaining them once in a while so that they look natural and real.

Many links also come just by following others. Many of the guys who claim millions of followers on Twitter also have millions of people followed by them. The idea is to keep following others so that some of them follow back; and later on unfollowing those who did not follow back.

3. Most followers are dormant.
People follow celebrities when they visit their accounts by chance or by way of curiosity or when there is some controversy or big news about them. After than the followers lose interest but they do not 'unfollow' them. Moreover, only a small percentage of people on social sites visit their accounts regularly.

I did a small check just now: I picked up 10 top world leaders and checked their 50 Twitter followers for number of followers they had and how active they were on Twitter. As apprehended, over 90% of all of them had lower than 10 followers and had not tweeted for the last 20 days.

4. Messages are lost in the crowd.
Some genuine followers might be visiting their accounts regularly. But, if they follow thousands of accounts, they will be able to see only the messages of a few people which are current at that time. Other messages would have gone down the drain.

5. Some statistics does not mean much.
Some people add all types of numbers to show their 'influence', and these numbers include hits and visits on their blogs over time (hits are just junk; visits would include own visits and also spam), numbers on stat counters on their sites or blogs (their base can be artificially kept at a high figure and they can be tweaked manually now and then), and so on.

6. Numbers are OK but do the followers care for his opinion?
Finally, even if their numbers were big after all discounts, do the 'followers' listen to them? Followers are generally people who are interested in the person's activities and views, not his disciples. They care a hoot for that person's recommendations unless the person in question is their political leader or religious head.

I have also found that a large number of politicians and journalists are followers of politicians of all hues. This they do so that they do not miss any statement made by that politician, not because they like his ideas.

When it comes to political decisions, I do not think followers matter much. One, because of the reasons given above, and two, because not all genuine followers also belong to his constituency or will go to vote for him.

Buying decisions are also seldom taken based on following, except in rare cases.

The only social media influencers who seem to have influence on a section of their followers are the preachers, highly credible thinkers, top politicians and celebrities with real fan-following (charismatic actors, players, singers etc). But here too, such social media followers are already their true followers and the followers are already influenced - and in their case, social media is just 'preaching to the choir' or influencing the already influenced.

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