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Follow back - Social media trickery

By JAMES COAKES Published 3rd Nov 2015
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The 2014 edition of the annual Social Recruiting Survey shows that 93% of hiring managers check a candidate's social media profiles before offering them a position.

One of the things that hiring companies are increasingly looking for is influence, but how many understand what influence actually looks like?

Follow back - digital sleight of hand

Most people know that followers can be bought, and there are some very good tools online which will tell you how many fake followers a user has. It would be extremely dangerous for a candidate to use this very basic trick.

However, there is another practice that can inflate the figures and that is 'follow back'. There are tools that will follow Twitter users in bulk with the aim of getting as many as possible to follow back. These are seemingly real accounts, but they are primarily interested in boosting their figures rather than any real content. If an account has used this technique then you will find a large number of followers with completely unrelated interests, so you may find businessmen following and being followed by teenagers whose main stated interest is in Justin Bieber or One Direction.

So, how can you tell if someone is using this technique? Apart from taking a quick look at a sample of accounts - those that they are following and who are following them - and looking for this lack of congruency and appropriateness, accounts which have used follow back as a key strategy have some common features.

If an account is followed by tens of thousands but also follows tens of thousands then that is in itself suspicious. People with real influence tend to be quite selective about who they follow.

You can measure engagement by looking at how many people are responding to their content. If someone has tens of thousands of followers but their average engagement levels are in the single digits then that tells you something.

The best measure, and this takes a bit longer but will really tell you what is going on, is to look for conversations. If someone has real influence then their content will cause conversations, and you can also look at who those conversations are with to find out what sort of people they are influential with.

All of the clues are there, if you know what to look for. The bottom line is that people with real influence do not need to fake it.


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