Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal ran an expose on Jim Vidmar a man who makes a living by helping people boost their social status on Twitter. Vidmar, who’s based in Las Vegas, buys fake Twitter accounts in bulk and then uses those accounts to follow, tweet and retweet at his clients.
When the Wall Street Journal caught up with Vidmar, who gave them a look into his business, he had just purchased 1,000 fake Twitter accounts from a vendor in Pakistan. Vidmar only paid $58. He used those accounts to follow Dave Murrell a rapper who goes by the name Fyrare. Murrell told the WSJ that he has used Twitter ads to help bolster his profile but working with Vidmar is more effective. “but you’ll get more with Jim.” he said.
Murrell and many others believe that boosting your Twitter profile with fake accounts is normal. “If you’re not padding your numbers, you’re not doing it right,” he says. “It’s part of the game.”
Vidmar is currently managing 10,000 robot accounts for 50 clients. But it hasn’t always been so easy.
Researchers from the University of California Berkeley and George Mason University spent 10 months during 2012 and 2013 working with Twitter’s security team to identify fake accounts. The team was able to buy fake accounts, study the characteristics of the fake accounts and develop a filter to thwart them. Their methods were 95% effective, much higher than the 8% of fake accounts Twitter had previously caught.
Vidmar admitted that he knew when they implemented the new filter. In April of 2013 most of his fake accounts had been deleted.
But now, for some reason, security has lightened up at Twitter. Vidmar is back to buying fake accounts in bulk. Fake accounts since the research team worked with Twitter have actually improved. One of the things that the researchers looked for was incomplete profiles and accounts with no pic or avatar. Now Vidmar tells WSJ that his fake accounts all have profiles and photos. They also tweet a few times before their sold on the black market.
Twitter, unlike Facebook, has no steadfast policy on fake accounts. Twitter allows users to have more than one account, which makes sense because many people have a personal Twitter and a work Twitter. Some also have accounts for hobbies that they like so they control the flow of inbound tweets. Facebook, on the other hand, requires users to use their real name and they can only maintain one Facebook account at a time.
Vidmar uses the fake accounts to not only boost his clients’ Twitter accounts but also to make them trending topics. Another rapper, Philadelphia based Tony Benson, who goes by the name “Philly Chase” says using Vidmar to promote his account on Twitter was “the best decision I ever made.” Benson was able to trend in Philadelphia so much that local media picked up on him, and he was able to book more shows.
Turning people into trending topics can be a very lucrative business. Vidmar says that the company sells a “promoted trend” for as much as $200,000 per day. Because he’s using fake Twitter accounts rather than paying for sponsored tweets, the trend seems more authentic.
What do you think, tell us in the comments below: