Does Having a Fake Following Affect Your Reputation on Social Media?

Posted in: Reputation Management | Social Media

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Twitter recently conducted a major digital audit that eliminated millions of fake accounts, like, scammers, spammers, and bots, in one fell swoop. Twitter offered up this statement about their profile audit:

Most of the accounts we suspend are suspended because they are spammy, or just plain fake, and they introduce security risks for Twitter and all of our users. These types of accounts are against our Twitter Rules. Unfortunately, sometimes a real person’s account gets suspended by mistake, and in those cases we’ll work with the person to make sure the account is unsuspended.


And while this likely had minimal effect on the average user, I was curious about how drastically this aggressive digital cleanup affected the follower counts of celebrities and influencers because there has been a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not celebrities and influencers buy their high number of followers. Before I started digging into the numbers, I thought to myself, “Do people know or care how their reputation changes when people think that they have bought fake followers?”

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When I asked my husband who he thought would buy fake followers on social media, he responded with, “Probably some loser who wants to seem cool or validate their self-worth.” Although that’s a little harsh, I’m sure that’s how a lot of people think regardless of the authenticity behind it. If you think about it, there really aren’t any positive connotations that come to mind when you suspect someone of having a fake following on social media.

And this isn’t just exclusive to Twitter – Instagram is a major hub for fake followers too. When people make their accounts public on Instagram, that’s literally their way of saying they don’t care who follows them but that they want everyone to be looking. Though some of those likes may be from fake followers, few people care. Twitter is very similar.

As I was conducting my research, I kept wondering which celebrities and influencers just happened to have hundreds of thousands of spammy accounts following them and which actually went out of their way to pay for them. Because if someone ends up having fake accounts follow their profiles without having paid for them, their reputation shouldn’t be affected. It’s not their choice to have spammy accounts following them, and yet, it can still have a negative effect on their overall online reputation.

Regardless of how it came to be, here’s what I found:



There were a huge amount of fake accounts that got deleted and some of these numbers are staggering. If someone is going out of their way to pay for a fake following, then that may say a few things about them:

  1. They’re seeking personal or professional validation in the form of a higher follower count
  2. They want Google to see their profile as more authoritative from an SEO perspective
  3. They want other people to see them as popular or more legitimate
  4. By seeing a high following, other real users will be influenced to follow them (which I’m 100% guilty of when it comes to beauty influencers on Instagram)

So now the question is – does this affect their online reputation? In short, yes.

After asking people what their first thoughts were about finding out a celebrity had fake followers the connotation was almost always negative. Until we actually know the truth we shouldn’t judge, but more often than not, it’s going to happen anyway. This is why managing your online reputation is SO extremely important.

Of course, we can’t prevent the judgments and opinions of others, but focusing on these points below will help you keep up with your personal and professional online reputation.

  1. Be aware of what people are saying about you on the internet
  2. Decide whether or not to care
  3. When you decide you should care, assess the positive areas of your online presence and focus on promoting them
  4. Choose your fights wisely. Don’t focus on addressing every single negative thing there is out there 
  5. Lead the conversation about your brand and don’t fall into the trap of those trying to take you down
  6. Use some of the negatives as a learning experience, then regroup, change, and continue to grow

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