As someone who plays the Twitter game honestly I find it more than a little annoying that people are now buying followers by the droves. In fact, it has become a big business. And Twitter makes it worse by promoting certain celebrities.
The number of followers should reflect how many people want to follow that user. Twitter promotes the service to personalities, who can easily get a few million followers especially when the service itself coaxes new users into following them. When you sign up, Twitter suggests some figures to follow in an effort to boost their numbers. In turn, the stars talk about the service. It's an interesting marketing strategy.
I'd be stunned if half of these people who got millions of followers because of this boost even know it is going on. The other celebrities who see the number of followers as some sort of meaningful metric become anxious. You know something's up when a major celebrity who never got the benefit of this questionable practice has a realistic number of followers, say 250,000 rather than 14,000,000 followers.
So this new market of fake followers has become a big business. And no wonder. Say you have two famous singers – one has 8,000,000 followers and the other has 4,000,000 followers. This is because of the recommendation engine, not real interest. So what does the laggard do? He uses the promotional budget to buy a few more million followers lest people think he is on the decline.
Buying users is most effective with smaller accounts that would look good to gain a few thousand. Depending on whom you ask, you can get 1,000 followers for a fiver or so. Most of these transactions are done on eBay but the problem is, most also appear to be scams.
I opened a bogus Twitter account as an experiment and decided to buy 5,000 followers for £15 from one of these eBay operations. I never heard back and never got the followers. Nobody ever asked for the Twitter handle and that was the end of it. Not every case is a farce, but there is no real way to know who the legit operators are. I'd avoid these deals.
In fact, this is a kind of reverse spam that is unnecessary. Sure, it is embarrassing when some unknown nudnik has a million followers while you have 400. But does anyone who is not in the public eye need more than a few hundred followers?
I can't help but wonder how many of the Twitter accounts are abandoned. I know I have more followers than I used to but less people respond to my tweets. Nobody clicks on anything. Did thousands of users sign up but have since stopped tweeting because they don’t see the point?
They probably got annoyed by the many dumb apps out there that demand you tweet out stupidities such as your Foursquare location or the fact that you bought a cheap microphone on Amazon. Why would anyone tweet their Amazon purchases? Are they starved for attention?
As awful as Twitter has become, the service will stick around until something better comes along. That has not happened yet, but I hope it does soon.