Whether you want them or not, 'fake' followers can make up a large proportion of your audience. While they may make your company look like it's popular, these followers are dead-weight, and can even compromise your credibility. This post looks at tools you can use to calculate the percentage of real, active followers you have.
So what exactly are 'fake' followers? Fake followers is a term coined for people following you for illegitimate reasons. At the worst end of the scale you can actually purchase followers by the thousand to make your account appear more popular. Then there's the 'bot' and 'spam' accounts deliberately tweeting out advertising, or accounts being generated to build up followers just to be sold as a list later on.
Because these followers aren't interested in your tweets, they aren't really offering you any benefit and your total number of actual followers is mis-represented. Fake followers can harm your credibility, will lead to less engagement, and is even against twitter's terms of service.
So 'fake' followers are bad news, but how many do I have!?
There's a few useful tools out there that will analyse your twitter account's followers and give you a statistical breakdown of the good and the bad. Here's a couple worth trying:
This tool breaks down your followers into three categories; fake, inactive and good. Here's how the @codesynthesis tag broke down:
Not bad, but being a relatively new and low profile account, it doesn't pull in followers by the tens or hundreds of thousands. Let's try a bigger account - at time of writing @smashingmag has 746,996 followers, here's how they breakdown:
As you can see this more popular account has attracted a lot more unwanted followers. Let's push the boat out and see if this trend follows to the extreme end of the scale. Barack Obama has 39,925,718 followers, here's the breakdown:
Doing the stats, this means Barack Obama 'only' has 1,996,286 'good' followers compared with smashing magazine's 239,038 followers, suddenly the gap is significantly decreased (I use the word 'only' relatively here in terms of percentages of course, most of us could only dream of 2 million followers!).
See how your site fares using their free tool.
If you want to get a second opinion, TwitterAudit.com is another tool that analyses your account in a slightly different way. Twitter Audit gives you an 'audit score' based on the quality of your followers as well as a number against your real and fake visitors. Running @smashingmag through the same tool estimated their fake visitors at 212,147. Doing the math this compares with 164,339 'fake' visitors from the Fake Follower Checker, though TwitterAudit doesn't account for the 'inactive' grey area.
How does your site compare?