In today’s social media world, followers equal power or, at least, indicate importance.
Companies realized the potential of selling followers to users as a way to gain profit by charging a certain amount of money for a certain amount of “fake users” to increase the number of followers.
Would people follow a user who blogs about technology with 500 followers or the one with 50,000?
Since the early days of social media, the number of followers has been associated with value but getting a high number of followers is not easy. Many accounts started popping up under user names such as “increase your followers” or “get followers”.
These accounts ask for people to follow them so they can follow back, to gain followers.
A report published in the New York Times revealed that about 20 million users on Twitter are fake.
Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser said that they have actually taken legal action against some companies promoting the sale of fake followers. He also said that about 40 percent of users look like fake accounts because they only follow people and have never tweeted themselves.
Buying followers would cost around $10 for 100 followers and could reach up to $400 for 100,000.
These companies started a few years back, with more local ones appearing every day.
Analyst and board member of the Madinah Chamber of Commerce Abdul Ghani al-Ansari said in a local report that he considers fake accounts as a kind of fraud because such accounts or companies sell something people do not have the right to and do not own.
Also, these companies do not work under the supervision of Twitter, so it is considered fraud.
He also said that social networking sites are full of pros and cons and dealing with the virtual world reflects the degree of awareness of the individual and society in general.
“There should be awareness through responsible authorities legally and socially, as the high degree of awareness reduces the chances of fraudsters obtaining money unlawfully,” al-Ansari said.
Ibraheem Hassoun, an IT developer, said many of those who buy followers believe that the more followers someone has, the more influential they are. “The high number of followers lures big companies who are seeking marketing on social media sites, especially Twitter. So, it is easier to invite you to an event and ask you to tweet about it to your 40,000 followers rather than paying for an ad in a newspaper for example,” he said.
Hassoun also said there are many applications that show the number of fake accounts, but some new users still care about the number of followers and not the integrity.
“There are a number of ways to add followers with all those companies emerging on Twitter scene. There are the ones where you buy a certain amount of followers, the higher the number the more you pay, and there are the accounts that ask people to follow a hundred users and get the same amount following back. In both cases, most accounts involved in these schemes are fake,” he said.