For years, there has existed an underground market in which individuals and companies buy and sell fake social media followers, along with fake likes and comments.
These markets are an open secret yet they have persisted.
Now it looks like the fake follower economy is set for a potentially big fall.
This past Saturday, New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman opened an investigation into Devumi, a prominent purveyor of fake followers.
A New York Times exposé published the same day Schneiderman announced his investigation concluded that Devumi was in control of more than 3.5m fake Twitter accounts and has used them to sell more than 200m fake followers on the popular social media platform.
Just how badly are brands being duped?
While there are tools and methods brands can use to assess the quality of an influencer’s audience, none are perfect and it would seem few brands are doing significant due diligence on their influencer marketing transactions. In many cases, sponsored social media posts are bought through automated or semi-automated platforms, or by ad agencies.
All indications are that some if not much of the spend is for naught.
But the recent news, which included the revelation that a Twitter board member purchased at least 65,000 fake followers, along with law enforcement action, suggests that the fake follower economy is now too big to ignore. The writing is on the wall.