Faking it on twitter: The Sri Lankan story

Twitter is a micro blogging platform, a medium in which one is able to express in 140 characters. At least that’s how it started. Now you can attach images, put gif animations and also share videos via twitter. A social media platform evolves, that is why its not just media, but ‘social’. Social encapsulates the very essence, that, once it involves humans and human interactions, it never stays constant, which is why I also argue or make a point that there can be no ‘social media experts’ in this field cause the ignition on how it really works is determined by the users and it always changes, never staying the same. You can’t be an expert on something that keeps changing! 🙂

If you haven’t got a twitter account, go do it now before you read the rest!

With a 6+ years of being on twitter, with a good share of experiences on interacting with numerous types of people from the local Sri Lankans to many international personalities, both known and unknown, it has been the number one platform for me to observe the different engagements of social interaction, from conversing with unknown individuals to becoming good friends or acquaintances with them, it has its many positives. But this post is not about the positives sadly, its one to give glimpse of the fakers who try to manipulate the system and its users.

Joining twitter in 2009 and joining now has a mark difference. There is a ‘good’ active twitter community, specially thanks to bonding attempts via offline events such as TweetupsL and minitweetups organised by brands etc..

Judge – Naturally when numbers are presented to you, it is human nature to consider it as a game, its how best humans survive, survival of the fittest they say. And naturally twitter likes this, which is why, the platform gives you a ‘in your face’ look into how many follow you, the tweet numbers’ right up there, go JUDGE!

And this is where the fake-ness begins. Tweeps (people who use twitter) can artificially increase their follow base. Brands on twitter can pay a few bucks and increase the follower base. The agencies running these brands know this, the independent individuals running brands know this. It is not really a big secret. Go on google and alphabet it if you think I am wrong. For as little as $5 (thats about 700 Sri Lankan rupees), you can go and increase your followers. I have noticed (though, won’t name) few individuals who have done it (even in 2011). So, how do you convince the non-twitter savy head that social media is really working well for the brand: go buy followers, show follower numbers, butt kiss the head, done deal.

Engagement is not relevant, its the same with facebook, you pay for an ad on facebook, gain followers, then publish an article congratulating yourself that you have ‘100,000’ followers blah blah. This works for a short time, before ‘social’ comes into play for the media. That’s when brand managers need to come out of the box and THINK of engaging ways. There have been various good cases of getting the users to engage with the brand. But are companies still paying enough attention to the ‘right’ approach to reaching the end consumer? Are brands just after the followers?

Twitter Audit – It’s always good to do an audit to seek answers to some queries. Not that all questions will get answers. But are brands actually buying followers? Whether it be ‘companies’ or even ‘politicians’ trying to get prominent in a new platform to them in a short time, let’s analyse a few accounts via an independent site called https://www.twitteraudit.com/

About TwitterAudit

Each audit takes a random sample of 5000 Twitter followers for a user and calculates a score for each follower. This score is based on number of tweets, date of the last tweet, and ratio of followers to friends. We use these scores to determine whether any given user is real or fake. Of course, this scoring method is not perfect but it is a good way to tell if someone with lots of followers is likely to have increased their follower count by inorganic, fraudulent, or dishonest means.

TwitterAudit is not affiliated with Twitter in any way.

This is what was uncovered for the top 3 telecom companies in Sri Lanka.

Dialog Axiata

Etisalat Sri Lanka

Mobitel Sri LankaThis is what was uncovered for few politicians in Sri Lanka who are on twitter.

UPFA-MRUNP-Champika UNP-harsha UPFA-NamalRanilI also audited myself and found that apparently over 3000 followers are fake according to the audit! I have not used money to buy followers (this is what I am saying, you don’t have to believe me)


And 2 cricketers I admire on the cricket pitch who are on twitter apparently have a lot of fake accounts too following them.



The weirdest part is TweetupSL account which myself and few other committee members have control of, which seem to have many fake accounts too following it.


I have no conclustion for the audit and leave it upto the reader to be the ‘judge’. Its another way of saying, think twice before judging statistics and even updates/tweets on an online platform, there is the truth, the lies and the ugly, all waiting to reach us in a flash. Let’s not be haste, step back, reflect. Make the platform a place to be, for all, in an ethical manner.


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