The Great Twitter Experiment of 2013

At some point last night I fell down the rabbit hole of Twitter followers. I found a bunch of seemingly unimportant people with hundreds of thousands of followers. “How did they get that many followers?” I wondered. “What the hell do they do now that they have that many followers?” And so my great Twitter experiment of 2013 began.

I’m not sure what made me start looking for “how to increase your followers on Twitter.” I know full well that a search like that will only lead to terrible click-bait websites with nothing of value, and yet I searched. What I found was intriguing.

Who the hell is Peaches?

Who the hell is Peaches? (I blurred some of this out because it’s borderline not-for-kids stuff)

Seriously – who is this Peaches person? 230k+ people seem to want to know him/her/it. That’s the thing tho – Peaches doesn’t seem to have any notoriety at all. How did he/she/it get that many followers? I decided to find out.

So far, what I’ve found is that there’s a number of hashtags that are commonly used to build followers. The way it works is like this – you search for something like #TeamFollowBack. You find people that tweeted that hashtag, you follow them and/or retweet *their* tweet, and they follow you. You’re also supposed to look through everyone that retweeted that tweet and follow them, and then they’re supposed to follow you. It’s like a low-budget pyramid scheme of fake internet points.

I tried following one of the bigger #TeamFollowBack tweeters that I found on my main Twitter account (@Meorrow). It didn’t take long for me to realize that in no way did I want to spam my legit followers with messages like “RETWEET IF YOU FOLLOW BACK #TeamFollowBack ✔ #InstantFollowBack ✔ #AutoFollowBack ✔ #500ADAY ✔ #1000ADAY ✔ 62”. That’s not going to win me any actual followers that I care about.

Really? A Twitter follower pyramid scheme?

Really? A Twitter follower pyramid scheme?

The bug had bit at that point tho – I like to think of myself as someone that’s pretty good at computers and the internet. If these people can do it, I can do it too, right? Enter a second Twitter account (that shall remain nameless to preserve the experiment). *That* account is now following 60 of the most followed accounts that used #TeamFollowBack in a tweet last night. It has also retweeted messages from these accounts 282 times. I’m not really playing along 100% though – I’m not looking through retweets and following all those people – I merely keep a column open in TweetDeck with the timeline for the fake account and retweet messages when I see them come across and I’m thinking about it.

So, 282 messages retweeted. What’s the result? In less than 24 hours (and essentially zero effort), my fake Twitter account has 295 followers. I get 3-5 more every time I retweet a handful of these #TeamFollowBack tweets. The system works, for some definition of “works.”

What I’ve seen so far is enough to keep me interested a bit longer. Since it requires basically no effort, I’ll keep that timeline open in TweetDeck and retweet away. I’ll post updates as I hit milestones.

No experiment would be complete without a hypothesis. Here’s mine – I suspect that I’ll pretty easily get 1000-2000 followers in a short amount of time. I don’t think getting followers will be an issue. The bigger question I have is whether they’ll be *quality* followers. If I hit 1000-2000 followers and then tweet something real, will I get any reaction at all? My guess is no. These people are following me simply to bump their follower numbers. It’s working, but it’s likely completely meaningless. Based on the amount of traffic in the fake account’s timeline after following just 60 people, I think it’d be impossible to even parse out a real message from the spam.

We’ll see what happens. It’ll likely turn out pointless in the end, but what the hell – it might be fun!

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