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?!

Klout… and how it can be manipulated

Guest blog by Jillian Ney

imageKlout was first introduced to me as a status symbol – a symbol of your online influence. Influence is a hard variable to measure, so how can a tool measure your online influence?

Klout attempts to do this by monitoring ‘over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter’ – with the aim of measuring your overall online influence.

Is it valid metric?

I have always questioned the reality or accuracy of Klout scores. Statistics can be manipulated!

So being a researcher, you gotta love me, I set out to manipulate my Klout score.

I have neurotic episodes with Twitter, some weeks I Tweet constantly, and others, well I guess my research takes priority. The week of the 7th of March I was back to being neurotic and attempting to manipulate Klout.

Can you manipulate your Klout score?

You sure can!

The 7th of March I started with a Klout of 43 (an increase of 10 over the past four months). In the next four days I moved up to 44, 45, 46 and then 47.

  • Tweets sent: 92
  • Retweets: 8
  • Direct Tweets: 59

Resulting in a gain of 4 Klout points in 4 days.

I do not have a record of how many Twitter followers I acquired in those four days but considering I currently have just over 1,200 – I wasn’t setting the Twitter world alight.

Conclusion: Klout can be manipulated if you try hard.

I can’t sustain that level of constant engagement and there is only so much one person can say before they get annoying. To do it without annoying or loosing you Twitter followers, consider this:

Klout scores are moderated by:

  • The number of times you are retweeted
  • The number of tweets directed at you

And of course the dependent variable:

  • The content you post

No one is going to retweet or feel the need to engage uninteresting content, or even overt self-promotion!

Having gone back this week to have a look at the scores on my door, I was back down to 45.


This would suggest that scores are time dependent. I’ve gone back into research mode and become a half Twitter recluse. For instance since the 11th of March I have posted 138 times.

If your Klout score matters to you, my advice would be to:

  1. Take Twitter at a constant pace – no marathon runs like me
  2. Tweet useful and interesting content
  3. Join conversations

I want to add ‘grow your followers’ to that list, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the number of Twitter followers will moderate the required number of retweets and direct tweets.

So, I’ve found nothing new but we do know that Klout can be manipulated in a short space of time. I also hold my hands up to say the science isn’t exact. Maybe you can try it out for yourself?!

Jillian is a doctoral researcher and marketing tutor at University of Strathclyde. Jillian’s research explores the use of social media in a purchase decision, particularly the cues used to determine the credibility and influence of what she terms social content. The research seeks to understand what cues hold most significance in credibility judgement decisions.