The New York Times published a story Saturday about a company that provides social media followers. And the examples include politicians, athletes, actors, and, of course, reality TV stars, from a Great British Bake-Off judge to a Real Housewives star to Shark Tank‘s “queen of QVC.”
The story focuses mostly on one company, Devumi, that “sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online,” and “has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud,” the paper reported.
Those who use its services buy “amplification bots,” fake, computer-controlled accounts that “follow, retweet and like tweets sent by clients who have bought their services,” according to the Times.
- In 2014, a “brand strategist” “purchased tens of thousands of followers for Lori Greiner, the inventor and Shark Tank co-host. … A lawyer for Ms. Greiner said she had asked him to stop after learning of the first purchases. Still, records show, Mr. Pallen bought Ms. Greiner more Devumi followers in 2016.”
- “A Twitter account belonging to Paul Hollywood, the celebrity baker, was deleted after The Times emailed him with questions. Mr. Hollywood then sent a reply: ‘Account does not exist.'”
- “Sonja Morgan, a cast member on the Bravo show The Real Housewives of New York City, uses her Devumi-boosted Twitter feed to promote her fashion line, a shopping app and a website that sells personalized ‘video shout-outs.'”
- “One former American Idol contestant, Clay Aiken, even paid Devumi to spread a grievance: his customer service complaint against Volvo. Devumi bots retweeted his complaint 5,000 times.”
- Iron Chef and The Chew co-host “Michael Symon, a celebrity chef and Devumi client, has almost a million followers.”
- “Kathy Ireland, the onetime swimsuit model who today presides over a half-billion-dollar licensing empire, has hundreds of thousands of fake Devumi followers, as does Akbar Gbajabiamila, the host of the show American Ninja Warrior.”
Read the full story, The Follower Factory—which, as a bonus, is beautifully designed for the web.
In Hollywood, it’s still difficult to get an unscripted shows greenlit, and one requirement is often having stars with big social media followings attached to a project. Follower counts are still used as some kind of predictor of success—even though it is not.