Phony Following: How to spot a Twitter account with fake followers

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By Marcus Leshock | WGN Morning News

TWITTER FAKERS PHOTOIt seems like just yesterday we were all watching Ashton Kutcher become the first Twitter user with one million followers.

But today, a million followers is nothing. It’s estimated that Twitter has more than 800 million registered users. As that number continues to grow, so does another problem – many of these accounts aren’t run by real people.

So why do these fake accounts exist? For profit. A quick Google search led us to plenty of websites selling hundreds of thousands of followers, costing anywhere from five to a thousand dollars.

We talked with David Gross and David Caplan, creators of – a site that lets you scan anybody’s Twitter account to determine how much of their following is real, or not so real. It works by scanning a sampling of an account’s following to determine how active the users are, along with other indicators. The service is free to use, but if you want to re-audit an account, you’ll have to pay a fee.

We also talked to Scott Kleinberg, social media editor of the Chicago Tribune, about the downside of buying a fake following. There’s more at stake than just embarrassment if you get caught – your Twitter account can be suspended, and you can open yourself up to spam and other phishing attacks.

It’s nearly impossible to have a Twitter account without some random bots following you. To clean up your account, Scott recommends services like Tweepi. It will scan your following and show you accounts it thinks are fake. You can choose to remove them.

Scott plans to write more on this topic in an upcoming So Social column in the Chicago Tribune. We’ll post a link to it here after its posted. My TV feature is airing this morning at 4:45 & 5:45. We’ll post it here after it airs, as well.

Have you ever purchased followers on Twitter or considered it? Let’s talk about it! I’m @MarcusLeshock.


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