Now Barracuda, the security company, has done some research on the Twitter black market: buying and selling followers. The results don’t look pretty for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who looks to have acquired a significant number of fake followers, and security expert Gregory D. Evans, who Barracuda says probably purchased followers at least four times.
Social proof, baby. At prices of just $18 for 1000 followers, it’s cheap to look like a big deal.
But there’s big money in it for dealers, the people who create and sell fake Twitter accounts. Barracuda says they can make up to $800/day if they control as few as 20,000 fake accounts. Dealers do have to work for their pay, however: Twitter keeps finding and taking down fake accounts, so there is constant churn.
How can you tell if an account is fake? There’s no complete hard-and-fast rule, but here are some guidelines. Fake accounts usually:
- follow quite a few people, but generally fewer than 2001
- are young, having been created an average of 19 weeks ago
- have few tweets, or, if there are many, they look automated
- may not have a picture in the profile
Here’s the infographic Barracuda produced from their data: