You Bought Twitter Followers. Now What?

Recently, The New York Times broke a large story on the shady industry of purchasing followers. Here’s what marketers need to know.

Kiev, Ukraine – May 30, 2014: Person holding a brand new Apple iPhone 5S with Twitter profile on the screen. Twitter is a social media online service for microblogging and networking, founded in March 21, 2006.

Buying social media followers has been a thriving industry for a decade. On the surface, large numbers of followers can inflate your popularity and make it appear that you have more influence. For businesses and prospective thought leaders, it has historically been a tempting proposition. However, there are two problems: It’s misleading to the audiences that follow your work, and it violates social media platforms’ terms of service. If you bought social media followers—or perhaps worked with an agency or person who did so on your behalf—here’s what to do now to grow your authority in an authentic way.

Take stock of the situation: A large number of fake followers doesn’t actually grow your reach or business. Audit your account to see how many of your followers are genuine and how many are bots. Tools like TwitterCounter will take a sample of your following and use an algorithm to determine which accounts are real. There are several tools on the market with different factors to consider, ranging from whether your audit details will be private to the cost involved.

Decide how to act: In some cases, you don’t need to do anything. Twitter is cracking down on false accounts, and many people with fake followers—no matter how they were acquired—are seeing their follower counts organically drop. For other brands, being more proactive is important. Blocking those bot accounts will keep them from showing up on your list of followers or from refollowing your account.

Develop a plan to grow legitimately: If you’ve been spending money buying fake followers, consider taking the leap to putting that money toward legitimate growth or advertising. There are many ways to do this. One option is to hire a social media expert to manage your accounts, grow your following, and help create and share content. If your content creation is already in good shape, perhaps that money could be spend leveraging platform advertising to grow your reach. One option that is a good value for the money is Twitter Promote Mode—a $99-per-month service that promotes your account and up to 10 tweets each day.

Fake followers aren’t good, but getting rid of them doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your Twitter growth. Take the time to assess your account, and then strategically decide how to deal with these followers to clean up your social media karma. From there, you can focus on how to build relationships with your audience in a meaningful way going forward.