The story is “The Follower Factory” and it exposes how widely fake followers — sometimes in the tens of hundreds of thousands – are purchased to lend credibility to politicians (of all stripes), gurus, entertainers and others.
The question is:
What’s More Valuable? 10 Humans Who Sign Up At Your Site … or 10,000 Fake Followers?
I’ve been an advocate of the value of actual signup forms at your site, where real people can make a conscious decision to hear from you. To get advice, special offers, information and opinion. If you’re getting this rant by email, you did that at my site.
Let’s get concrete: You can purchase access to 10,000 followers of so and so – a guru in the field where you want to reach people. Or… you can slowly but tenaciously build up a list of confirmed, conscious followers and reach them with the same offer, advice, or opinion. Which is the better value? It depends.
I’m not discounting the validity of reaching people by paying to play on social media, but the Times article poses some very foundational questions as to the credibility and legitimacy of who – or what – you are reaching when you do that.
And, again, contrast that murky, hard to validate “audience” with one built by collecting names, emails and other info from visitors to your site.
In my class on building accessible, inviting forms distributed by lynda.com and Linkedin Learning, and in my live and online classes on Web design, you’ll see my obsession with the importance of bending every effort to make your forms accessible and inviting, and to drive visitors to them. If you’re signed up with lynda.com, check it out. If not, sign up for lynda.com’s free trial and squeeze this course into your first 30 days :).
Am I arguing there’s no point in promoting your message over social media?? Of course not. In fact, feel free to retweet or share this on your own Facebook page! But I’m arguing for weighing quality vs. quantity when you think about where to invest time, energy and resources in reaching an audience.