Demystifying the social media follower prophecy: Part 1


Part 1. Introduction to the industry wide problem: Does it pay to buy a social media following?

The social media industry is going through a period of rapid growth (and indeed change). All media is becoming increasingly social but brands don’t all know how to make the most of the opportunities yet. The uprising of social business as a discipline has seen brands want to become more open and garner feedback from advocates and fans who are shaping future operations. This is a big shift for brands. We’re big believers in the notion of open business so this article is in support of our business beliefs and driving principles.

At the same time, brands want to be seen to be thriving and successful in these new social spaces. How do you traditionally quantify success? By getting followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook. We wanted to explore the notion of whether you can simply buy fans and followers.

It’s easy isn’t it, Brand X see the likes of Red Bull with 26.5m fans on Facebook and 500,000 followers on Twitter and they want the same, without any regard in to how many people that requires, what level of investment and over how long. Oh and they don’t have any budget to get there. Good luck and may the force be with you.

You’ve probably done it yourself, looked at a brands page on Facebook or Twitter, seen that they have a small number of followers/fans or similarly they follow much more than they are being followed on Twitter and it turns you off. It psychologically plants the seed of doubt in your mind about whether you want to still ‘like’ or follow. Eg check this great article out from Rob Cottingham, “Just because you have followers, doesn’t mean you have insight”

I never really even thought about, looked in to or considered using the number of companies that are offering their social profile growth building services to consultancies, agencies and brands. These all promised to sell us followers, and fans and even more so, they guaranteed exact numbers. I couldn’t work out how this was possible.

With a small pilot, we wanted to put this to the test so started on an experiment with Twitter and Facebook profiles for This lasted all of 2 days out of the 30 day agreement before we pulled the plug. Why? We found out everything we wanted to find out (and more) about the grey, underground and potentially damaging methods that these ‘guru’s’ and tools use to deliver ‘success’.

This is just the beginning…

Over the coming parts of this article, we will share with you everything we found out, including the science, process and ways that this test was carried out. Also some considerations about SEO, brand reputation and PR. Hope you join us for the ride.


  1. Thanks for sharing that post – I’m glad you found it useful. And I’ll look forward to checking out this series!

    For me, so much of the follower frenzy boils down to organizations not thinking past the numbers; “we want to attract lots of followers” becomes the goal, instead of a means to an end. And that means they don’t look at the quality of the network they’re building, just its size – while they pay a potentially heavy price for using dodgy network-boosting schemes.


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