Public relations is all about building a positive reputation. Twitter is all about expanding your reach and influence in 280-character bursts. Buying fake Twitter followers (also called bots) is one spot where public relations and social media intersect—and potentially blow up.
First, lawyers should ask themselves: who am I trying to impress? Other lawyers? My referral sources? Potential clients? You’re spending money to impress others by the thousands and tens of thousands on Twitter, to what end?
If you are trying to impress reporters, they tend to be a cynical bunch. They may start to sniff around your Twitter account and learn that you haven’t been honest.
In a world where everything is for sale—and frequently on sale—is it a good idea for lawyers to buy Twitter followers? Don’t do it; here are six reasons why not:
1. Buying Twitter followers is a credibility killer.
As officers of the court, lawyers would be wise to think carefully before getting out their credit cards to buy Twitter followers. Of course, this cautious sentiment has not stopped celebrities, athletes, politicians, and pundits from buying Twitter followers.
Lawyers, like public relations professionals, live and die by their reputations. Prospective clients will look at you with skepticism at best and disdain at worst if they find out that you bought Twitter followers. Twitter the corporation has its hands full: it is shutting down fake accounts by the millions. Estimates for how many fake Twitter accounts there are range between 50 and 70 million, but no one knows for sure. Shutting down fake accounts falls to falls to Vijaya Gadde, pictured, Twitter's chief legal officer. And, if you buy Twitter followers, you are violating the Terms of Service of Twitter; just saying. It is “strictly prohibited” to buy Twitter followers, and yet thousands of companies offer this service. And thousands of businesses, including law firms, buy Twitter followers.
2. Not all Twitter “Followers for Sale” sites are created equal.
Some sites sell you Twitter accounts that are nothing more than a photo (fake) and a username (fake also). In other words, dead accounts: these people will never re-tweet anything you post. But your overall follower account increases.
Other sites will sell you real accounts, with real people behind them that re-tweet everything you post on Twitter. That’s all they do. Many of these are based in the Philippines, where thousands of people hold the job title of: “Twitter Re-Tweeter.” Really!
Some websites claim to sell you “good” followers. To satisfy your curiosity, 10,000 followers cost about $650. Other sites will sell you 2,500 followers for $50. A third site offers 1,000 followers for $120. 3. Does buying fake Twitter followers actually work?
Building a positive reputation is done over years and decades. “Likes” and “Re-tweets” can help to build your reputation, but only if your audience is comprised of real people, not bots.
Lawyers want more real leads that result in more initial consultations, that lead to real paying clients. First, no one buys legal services from seeing a Tweet. Second, bots do not buy legal services. If you’re buying Twitter followers, you are trying to stack the deck in your favour for “Likes” and “Re-tweets.” In reality, it takes plenty of money and effort for content to “go viral,” almost as much as traditional advertising in magazines, newspapers and television. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for content to “go viral,” as only a minuscule percentage of content does this organically, without money changing hands.
That’s what the social media companies like Twitter don’t tell you.
4. Once you buy Twitter followers, you get on some undesirable lists.
Good luck trying to tap it to do anything else, such as market newsletters from your firm, webinars, or in-person events, because there are no real people to receive your communication, just bots and spammers.
As we have seen with political figures, bots have the potential to amplify and feed extreme human reactions to situations—and not for the better. 5. You’ll be found out.
Cure yourself of “Twitter follower envy” when you put in any lawyer’s Twitter account and learn that the majority of followers is bogus. Like a pumpkin at Christmas, it may still look good on the outside, but it’s rotten on the inside.
6. Bots are now big business.
Whether fake accounts, hijacked accounts or legitimate accounts, they all act as probes by monitoring what content is being shared by you. And in a world where data is the new currency, they can trade this information to anyone who wants to buy it: advertisers or spammers. The saying “There is no honour among thieves” aptly applies.
Shady Twitter-follower sellers will populate your account with either porn or spam, or both. These are the worst kind because, for a variety of reasons, bots attract other bots. Soon, you’ll have a Twitter account that is totally useless. There is much activity there, lots of “Re-tweets” and “Likes,” but don’t look to your Twitter account for any real, live, actionable leads.
Still other sites will take charge of your Twitter account, using your username and login information, to follow thousands of legitimate followers with the hope that a certain small percentage will legitimately follow you back. It becomes a make-work project. In reality, you’re paying someone to spam other accounts. What should you do instead?
Instead, of Twitter, cultivate a positive reputation through Public Relations. Advocate for something, or advocate against something.
Tap into media like newspapers, magazines, and television to promote your cause. There are plenty of social issues today that need changing and the leadership of lawyers, worldwide. Pick an issue and create a Public Relations program to support it—an excellent way to build a lawyer’s reputation.