Can you buy social media influence?

By Linda Cheung

imageJillian’s recent guest blog Klout… and how it can be manipulated made me think of the phrase: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

As social media use grows, so do measurements of its use.

In What makes a credible social media expert? Heather Townsend warns readers to “be very concerned if your social media expert has more friends than followers, or similar numbers of friends and followers” because it suggests automated following and low engagement.

I agree, and always steer clear of such “experts”. However, I’m also aware that wherever there is a measurement, there will be people who look to manipulate it, and it’s not quite so easy to steer clear of these individuals.

Buying “friends”

I’ve met many people who have bought followers. For £X they have purchased hundreds, in some cases thousands, of followers. While I get why they’ve thought to spend their money, I don’t really get why they bother.

In the same way you can’t buy genuine affection, you can’t buy genuine social media engagement.

Purchased followers won’t engage and will often unfollow… so your friends/followers ratio will falter, requiring you to buy more followers… who won’t engage…

Spending cold hard cash is obviously the most literal way that you can attempt to buy influence. Many others have tried softer approaches – awareness of how your friends/followers ratio may be perceived has resulted in hundreds of articles on how to gain more followers.

Using tools

In The ultimate guide to getting more Twitter followers Heather refers to passive and proactive means and automated following. I know these methods have been very successful for Heather, but I’ve not yet pre-scheduled/bulk uploaded tweets because for me it seems counter-culture to the real-time nature of Twitter. Nor have I used software to auto-follow because, as Heather points outs, the tools simply help you find followers, not engage with them.

I’d be interested to know what you’ve tried, what’s worked and what hasn’t.

As social media becomes more important, so will the measurements. It’s been fascinating to watch the growth of Klout, and I like that it tries to incorporate 35+ variables to measure “True Reach”. Similarly PeerIndex wants to be “the standard that identifies, ranks and scores [social web] authorities” and it was interesting to see how they ranked speakers at the GeeknRolla conference.

The right balance

Jillian has already illustrated how Klout can be manipulated. I’m also aware of people who have tens of accounts and re-tweet, mention, and generally provide link-love, all to increase how one main account is rated.

Will it be money, time, tools, or all of the above that are used to ensure the “right” influence?

We all want and need measurements… but no matter how many variables, measurements are statistics… and lies?!