Apparently, many would-be celebrities fake it ’til they make it with shows of a virtual presence that is in actuality, well, virtual. The newest craze on Twitter is boosting your online voice with thousands of robot accounts that follow your Twitter and retweet your tweets.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, aspiring artists and actors buy fake accounts from overseas, and the boost they get in real followers and prestige trumps any similar boosts they would get from paid twitter advertisements. Jim Vidmar runs thousands of fake Twitter accounts from his home office in Las Vegas:
Surrounded by a dozen computers at his home overlooking a golf course near the Las Vegas Strip, Mr. Vidmar has been buying fake accounts and unleashing them on Twitter for six years.
Today, he says he manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients, who pay Mr. Vidmar to make them appear more popular and influential.
His are among millions of fake accounts on Twitter. Mr. Vidmar and other owners manage them to simulate Twitter users: they tweet; retweet, or forward, other tweets; send and reply to messages; and follow and unfollow other Twitter accounts, among other actions.
Why does this work? Because popular things are popular, sometimes just because they’re popular. In a world where cynics reject outright advertisements as mercenary or disingenuous, popularity becomes a marker for legitimacy. This popularity does not need to be real, however. It only needs to seem real to potential followers. Just because most twitter twits are cynical, doesn’t mean they aren’t still as gullible as their less virtual lemming predecessors. If something seems real enough, it will become real in no time:
Mr. Vidmar’s robots have helped make his clients “trending topics” on Twitter, giving them special mention on Twitter users’ home pages. The trending topics appear just below the “promoted trend” that the company sells for as much as $200,000 a day. The trending topics aren’t marked as “sponsored,” so they appear more genuine.
This too will pass. The superficiality and herd mentality of the masses will not pass, however. Whether it’s lending to the rich, befriending the cool, or following the popular, it seems the masses can do little other than what everyone else is doing. I guess that’s why they’re called “the masses.”