This just in! Justin Bieber’s biggest fans are… robots?
No, I’m not referring to the army of ‘Bielbers’ with posters of the singer hanging in their bedroom. I mean ‘bots’ or fake Twitter accounts. Of the international pop sensation’s 37.3 million followers on Twitter, 53% are so called ‘bots’. And he’s not alone. Recent news has exposed many celebrities with a significant percentage of their Twitter followers coming from inactive or automated accounts. This doesn’t stem solely from Hollywood either. Supposedly, President Obama’s Twitter audience is made up of around 70% inactive or fake profiles, totaling over 21 million. That’s more than the population of the state of New York (which has 29 electoral votes!).
All this hoopla surrounding fake followers has uncovered an industry for purchasing Twitter accounts. According to a recent study, there are more than two dozen companies that create, program and sell various packages of automated accounts ready to follow their most recent buyer. Based on the amount of accounts from the most popular providers in the industry, with average prices estimated at $18 per 1,000 followers, this equates to a $40-$360 million dollar industry.
The market for augmenting followers and ‘likes’ brings up the reoccurring question surrounding social media metrics: where’s the value in an inflated following? Quite often, PR pros dismiss the idea of accumulating followers and ‘likes’ as a primary way of measuring successful social media strategies and campaigns. We point clients and colleagues to metrics of engagement (‘talking about’ or shares, retweets, @mentions, etc.) as a much more indicative measurement of achieving one’s social media goals. Why then would politicians use limited campaign funds for ‘bots’ that are unable to vote? Why would celebrity social media managers add followers that can’t buy tickets to the next show or movie?
There wouldn’t be a market for followers and ‘likes’ if buyers only wanted to pad their egos. There has to be a more economical reason and I believe it boils down to the value of measuring popularity. These buyers have found a cheap and easy way to fudge the numbers so to speak. For example, if a performer is looking to book their next round of shows or land a big endorsement deal, they can point to their inflated social network audiences as a way to demonstrate their value or popularity to prospective sponsors: More followers, more money. In addition, these numbers can also increase the perceived popularity of politicians or brands. This in turn can attract real followers (potential consumers and voters) to specific messages, commercials or campaigns. They see that something or someone has more than a million followers and think, “There must be something special about politician ‘X’, let’s follow them and find out why!” Monkey see, monkey do.
There are risks to cheating the system, however. The issue of fake accounts hasn’t gone unnoticed by Twitter. More and more, the social network giant has gotten better at identifying and removing fake accounts by spotting the usual signs of inactivity; no tweets, no profile picture or bio, profiles following many while having no followers of their own. When massive spikes (bulk purchases) and drops (ensuing Twitter enforcement) in followers occur, those who closely monitor a celebrity or politician’s social network numbers will expose it, creating a public relations disaster. This happened to 2012 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, when he suspiciously gained 116K followers in one day, and it didn’t help his chances in November.
What do you think? Is the potential reward of artificially inflating social networking numbers worth the risk? Does this practice seem unethical or is it just the nature of the business?
Let’s face it – our lives revolve around the content we produce – whether it’s a new Facebook album from a spring break trip, tweets recommending a great blog post <wink, wink> or even daily email correspondence with friends, family or colleagues. All of the information we post, send, and receive results in new data to store on hard drives, external servers and in the cloud.
With the constant production of new data it is more important than ever to ensure your data is properly backed-up and secured. Fortunately, I have never experienced a hard drive crash, had a laptop stolen or an account hacked (now that I’ve jinxed myself), but I’ve known plenty of people who have and I can imagine how difficult it must be to try to recover lost data.
It is estimated that more than 60 million computers worldwide will fail this year alone, while an average of 113 cell phones are lost or stolen every minute in the United States (www.worldbackupday.com). It is also projected that cybercrime will grow at a rate of 10% each year through 2016 due to the continuing discovery of new vulnerabilities (Gartner Top Predictions for 2012: Control Slips Away). I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to become one of these statistics.
World Backup Day was created to raise awareness and stress the importance of backing-up and protecting data. We often see stories about company ‘XYZ’s database being hacked and customer-confidential information leaked. And recently, there has been a string of companies’ social media profiles being hacked and unauthorized messages going out to their following. This would be a PR nightmare for any company. Without a proper crisis communications or response plan in place, these types of events could ruin a company’s brand and image.
Don’t be waiting for the next World Backup Day to roll around. If you haven’t already, take action now and implement precautionary measures to back-up your data and protect your account information. After all, you’ve got a lot to lose.
One thing I love about SXSW, you never know who you’re going to meet. So many different people and so many different professions come together this weekend and next week in Austin. I think one of the most underappreciated professions – one that does a mountain of work to achieve success for startups, corporations and organizations attending the conference – is public relations. This year, I decided to try and give those hard working PR buddies an outlet, or at least a SXSW Official Meet Up dedicated to them.
I’m hosting “Any PR Pros Out There?” on Tuesday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. CT. I already have a great mix of people headed to the event, local Austinites and out-of-towners. We’re just going to hang out, it should be fun. A big thanks to my friends at SXSW for providing the venue space and complimentary drinks.
If you’re in town, I hope you can make it!
No matter what side of a given story we are on, most of us can agree that information-sharing, learning, engagement and societal advancement thrives in an environment in which multiple sides are communicated to provide a “check and balance” of interests and rhetoric.
In the early 20th century, the industry of public relations gained traction with the onset of a prominent 1906 trade union strike—the first of two in four years. Rising resentment of capitalism during the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, combined with the proliferation of sensationalized “yellow journalism,” shed light on the value of employing trained, outside professionals. Their role was to help businesses convey their messaging, rebut criticism and balance out the representation of their general interests to the public. According to The Economist, this 1906 strike spurred one of the earliest, most prominent examples of the professional practice of public relations.
During the second strike by the same trade union, frustrated by what they deemed to be unfairly unilateral, sensationalized coverage, the employers developed a new tactic. By employing a public relations professional (who also happened to be a former journalist) they were able to convey their side of the story, as well as generate discussion.
For the next 100 years, public relations professionals worked in tandem with journalists to help deliver information, provide resources and uncover unique story angles. Today, journalists and publicists rely upon one another to advance the modern-day communications industry, which, though certainly not without flaws, regularly brings to life a diversity of ideas that may otherwise be silenced. The practice of public relations serves an invaluable role for the interests of businesses and individuals, alike.
In fact, public relations is increasingly relevant in political campaigns, social advocacy, brand awareness and the discussion of issues most central to our lives by facilitating and underscoring the importance of communicating information from every angle.
Though still in its early stages and with ample room for improvement, social media provides an ubiquitous outlet for us to air our grievances, discuss our differences, champion issues we care about, and even connect directly with corporations. A mere few years ago, the notion of receiving a same-day response from a corporation was almost unheard of. Now, with the availability of social media sites, the barrier of communication is lowered. We can ask questions, air complaints and receive answers—sometimes within seconds!
What’s next for public relations as it pertains to your business? How can Nereus help your business join—or even lead—a well-rounded discussion in your industry? Contact us to learn more about how our team of talented public relations professionals can partner with you.
Maps are a universal medium for communication and navigation. Thousands of years Before Common Era the first maps were engraved onto clay tablets. During the Middle Ages, cartography evolved and hand-drawn maps were used in times of exploration. Throughout the next several centuries, maps became more accurate with the application of scientific methods. Today the art of mapping has digitized into what is known as “web mapping” or “web GIS” (Geographic Information System) –transforming the way we explore the world.
With the creation and expansion of smart phone applications and social networking sites, mobile devices are able to pinpoint our exact coordinates on a map. In fact, just yesterday a friend commented on how “creepy” it was that a Facebook message I sent to her highlighted the city from where it was sent. Knowing a message’s city of origin is not “creepy” in my opinion; however, Google Street View’s panoramic satellite images are debatable. I understand the concerns that such applications could be considered an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, there have been several occasions where the Google Maps link on a restaurant’s homepage has helped me to navigate to the location based on the satellite images provided.
In fact, we have become reliant on interactive mapping sites paired with the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network to navigate everyday whereabouts, such as finding the nearest coffee shop or determining how long it will take to travel to the closest ski resort. Some mobile applications paired with web mapping services also help to market specific restaurants and hotels. For instance, Foodspotting is a visual guide for finding and sharing recommended restaurants and highly-rated dishes and the iFind Hotels application connected to HotelsComined.com uses integrated mapping and smart sorting filters to locate hotels at thousands of locations across the globe.
Online maps offer more than an aerial view of the local terrain. They also provide the ability to update routes based on real-time traffic and weather conditions, geo-tag with photos of a specific location and customize content with our favorite restaurants and parks. Considering that in less than a decade, web mapping technology has advanced to this degree, I can only imagine what the future of mapping has in store!
Some postulate that web mapping will become so developed that tourists will no longer appear as “tourists”. In other words, future web mapping technologies may highlight shortcuts through alleyways that only locals would know of and provide historical references to the sites and buildings we pass by. With technology like this at our fingertips, it would be almost impossible to get lost in an unfamiliar setting. Just think of how helpful it would be to have our mobile devices confidently guide us to a selected destination, while describing the significance of famous monuments and ratings of the well-known restaurants we encounter along the way.
By redefining our landscape through digital cartography, we are actually mapping the future of how we navigate and discover the world around us. Further advancements in web mapping are still forthcoming and I am excited to see what is in store for the next generation of web mapping. In the meantime, I encourage you to download one or two of the most common mapping applications on your mobile device and see what new ways you can explore the world.