Buying Twitter Followers vs. Facebook Likes
What’s The Difference Between Buying Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers?
What’s The Difference Between Buying Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers?

Last week I had far more conversations than normal about buying Twitter followers. I don’t know what it was, maybe the stars were out of alignment, but everyone wanted to talk about whether or not you should buy Twitter followers, how you can buy them, and what it means if you do buy them.

Examples: One friend has a client who worked with some hacker to get thousands of new followers. I read a blog post about a PR pro who bought followers, and then had them taken away by Twitter when he admitted it publicly. And then, while I was researching a potential client, I realized that one of their executives had bought most, if not all, of their 37,000 followers.

As these and other examples popped up throughout the week, I thought, “Whoa. This seems to be getting out of hand. Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned way of building up your Twitter followers?”

But as I ruminated on it more, I realized that’s a silly question. I mean, when was there ever a “good old-fashioned way?” Yeah, you can reach out and mention people and put good content out there … but it’s a slow process to build quality followers on Twitter.

There’s a huge paradox here. Social media is about credibility and trust, and you have only a couple of seconds to prove to someone that your Twitter account is worthy of following. So what do you need to do to prove credibility? Show that you already have followers (who presumably follow you because you’re follow-worthy). But how do you get those followers in the first place?

What some people do is: they buy followers. Often just enough to get their account jump-started – a couple hundred, a thousand maybe.

And I’m wondering why that’s such a big deal.

You’d have to be really naive to have missed the fact that Facebook has just made an IPO out of selling Likes. Well, not always Likes, sometimes ads for other things, but primarily they are selling engagement with brands on Facebook, including signing people up to brand Pages as Fans/Likes. This is so important to the credibility of brand-new Facebook pages that I budget $1,000-$1,500 into every client’s plan to get them Likes when they first setup their Facebook account. And no one seems to have a problem with that.

Facebook makes the Like-buying process easy through their Ads interface, and their targeting makes you feel like you’re almost not buying them – you’re just telling the right people that your page exists, and what’s the harm in that?

So why is buying Twitter followers any different from buying Facebook Likes?

Over the last year one of my clients has been buying Twitter ads (through Twitter’s account-managed system – they were an early adopter when Twitter opened it up) and has seen a dramatic rise in their Twitter following – some 700% lift. They have spent a fair amount of money doing it, and I’ll admit that at times we were not targeted enough and had some unwanted follows, mainly from non-US countries (we initially targeted all countries where they had a business presence). Over time we’ve honed in on how to use Twitter’s system to generate quality followers in their very niche B2B marketplace. For this client, buying followers has been successful and valuable: they’ve seen traffic to their website and blog increase, they’re far more active and visible on Twitter than their competitors, and their board likes seeing the increased activity when we deliver buzz monitoring reports monthly.

Twitter is soon opening up their platform for self-serve ads, in much the same way Facebook does. (I’m already testing this through their small business program with American Express – screenshot below.) There’s no question that this will change the debate about whether buying Twitter followers is appropriate or not. Once Twitter allows more people/brands to Promote Accounts and Promote Tweets, they will be doing the exact same thing that Facebook encourages with Promote My Page or Promote My Post.

Buying Twitter Followers


Now I’m not saying that using one of the thousands (or millions – there are 326,000,000 results in Google for “buy twitter followers”) of shady outfits which promise 1,000 Twitter followers for $29.99 is the right way to go. There’s really no need to have thousands of inappropriate or untargeted Twitter followers. In fact, it can really hurt you; consider the executive at my potential client who totally went overboard. It’s a huge red flag to have 37,000 followers but under 1,000 tweets. Once I saw that ratio, it took me only about a second to see that all their followers are either non-English speakers or have egg icons for their profile pics – they’re clearly not “real” and certainly not valuable to that person. So the credibility of that person is way, way down – at least to those of us who know how to assess these things. (To many people, 37,000 followers might look very impressive, which is, I assume, exactly why they did it.)

But people who are serious about building up and then using their Twitter account for brand (or personal) engagement must have some way to get over the threshold of credibility with at least a reasonable number of followers. Ideally they’ll be targeted followers who are relevant to the person or brand in question. Buying a small cadre of followers early on might be the way to go; somehow I’m quite sure that if you pay Twitter for them, they won’t remove them.

Disclosure: I was given $100 in Twitter ads credit through the American Express Small Business Twitter partnership – as I’m sure thousands or more of other small businesses were. My decision to write about Twitter ads was in no way influenced by this credit.


About the Author

Stephanie Schwab
Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.
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    • What’s wrong with it? Because it’s fake. It’s a waste of time to look at those people because there’s nothing there.

      And you know it’s wrong because you won’t sign your name to your posting. You’re just trying to sneak in your URLs to sell more fake names.

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    I think most businesses who buy Twitter followers or Facebook likes are wasting their time if they think that merely this action will get them loads of new customers. But the exception is with startups and small companies that are just starting out. If you’re a new business with 4 likes on your page, you don’t look credible at all. People will see that your page has 4 likes and think that you’re a joke and close the tab. In that circumstances, buying some likes can enhance your public perception and get people to give you a shot. In that context, I think buying likes can have some benefit. The number of companies listed at is proof of how many people view this practice as beneficial. I think viewing buying fans as all good or all bad without considering context isn’t wise. There are times when it can be beneficial as well as times where it doesn’t do any good. The key is to be smart about it, understand the limitations, and have the right timing.

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  • Shane Barnhill

    This new offering from Twitter is going to require some cultural change. Each social network/community has a unique culture. Just because something is okay on Facebook, it doesn’t make it culturally acceptable on Twitter, etc.

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    This tool from Twitter will change the rules, but it may take some time for that change to occur.

    • Right on, Shane – I think you’re absolutely right, it will have to be a culture shift. It will happen, I’m sure.

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  • NikkiW

    V interesting piece, thanks for writing! I think the key thing here is that buying Twitter followers is perceived as buying spam – that’s it. Your bought Twitter followers are usually spam accounts. No one is actually giving people a good reason to click the ‘follow’ button. Alternatively with facebook your ads and your offering have to be good enough to persuade real people to click. Comparing the two (as they stand) seems a bit meaningless – like comparing buying PPC ads through Google with simply paying someone to set up a bot to repeatedly hit on your website. I’m excited about the possibility of Twitter ads that are actually meaningful and could gain you real, quality followers, so will be interesting to see how it works out. 

    • Agreed, Nikki – it’s definitely the difference in the fact that up until now, Twitter users had no way to spend to increase their following except for the “spammy” way. Going forward, though, I hope the stigma lifts as the Twitter ad product looks promising.

  • Andreas Ramos

    Why is it a terrible thing? Because it’s fake. 

    Go ahead, Stephanie, and say it in your FB page: your 3,300 followers are fake. Your credibility would collapse. 

    You’ll probably shoot back and say these are real people, which proves my point: you know that fake followers are bad.

    80% of Newt Gingrich’s 1.4m followers are fake. That says a great deal about him, doesn’t it?

    FB admitted that as much as 10% of FB’s accounts (that’s 90m accounts) are fake. Which brings up the interesting question: who created 90m accounts and why?

    The same at Twitter. Tens of millions of fake accounts. This isn’t small stuff. A director at JWT told me they routinely use fake accounts to “enhance” their clients’ FB postings. 

    FB and Twitter know this is going on. They could block it, but they choose to let it happen. 

    It undermines the credibility of FB, Twitter, and any company or person who has more than several thousand followers. 

    • Andreas, I’m not saying you should buy all your fans/followers. In fact, just the opposite – see the example above where I looked in to a potential client’s executive’s Twitter account and found that they’d bought all (or I assume nearly all) of their 37k followers. I immediately knew that they didn’t really know what they were doing (though they are purportedly digital experts). 

      I’m saying that, as with Facebook, it’s feels okay to me to startup a Twitter account by using Twitter ads (when they’re readily available) to jumpstart your following. Because it’s very, very hard to get from 0-200 or 300 followers. It’s far easier once you’ve got a few.

      Thus far I’ve found Twitter ads to deliver close to the same level of follower relevance as Facebook fan ads – which is pretty high. So whether you’ve grown them 100% organically or you’ve paid to get yourself in front of a few people who may be interested in following you, what’s the difference, if you have quality followers and can build good engagement.

      • Andreas Ramos

        I’ll still make the same point: You say one can jumpstart a client’s account by buying 200-300 fake followers. 

        So, if that’s okay, then STATE THAT on the page. It’ll ruin the client’s credibility. 

        I know you won’t dare to say it publicly. You know as well as I do that public admission of fake followers will ruin the account.The next time you speak at a conference, tell people that one can buy fake followers. Watch the audience’s faces. Widespread dismay. They feel they are being lied to.More than half of Brian Solis’ followers are fake. Boom! There goes his reputation. Just a cheap scammer. Yes, it’s hard work to get real followers. I have some 800 followers, and I know many of them. I value their reactions to what I post. It challenges me to write good content that they’ll like. 

  • Craig H Kessler

    I agree Stephanie.  I never fully understood why “buying” followers was such a terrible thing.  Sure you may like to organically build a list of tightly credible followers, but that’s not realistic or time efficient.  As more people flocked to Twitter, it became more difficult to organically build a base.  FB allows you to advertise to gain fans, and then it’s up to the brand to retain them.  Why can’t that be the same with Twitter?  

    • Exactly, Craig! There’s been so much hoo-ha about buying Twitter followers but no one has stood up to say hey, that’s exactly what Facebook wants you to do!  Perhaps it’s the difference that Facebook is a closed system and Twitter is open – so there are so many ways to engage with Twitter, including the vast numbers of outfits who want to sell you followers. Sure, those exist for Facebook too, but Facebook’s own system is far better so you stay within their closed world. Maybe once Twitter’s small biz ads are open to all it will even out.

      • Craig H Kessler

         I’m looking forward to the release of Twitter for Small Biz.  I try to learn more about Twitter Ads but they are very secretive about it.  Since I don’t currently work with clients on those ads, it’s difficult to learn now so I can be prepared when the time comes.  It seems like the new system will be similar to Google Ad Words and hopefully they will release more information so people can train.

        • As I said in the post, I’ve had access to the full Twitter Ads platform for about a year and small biz for a week. Both are great, though the interfaces could use some work. Great control over ad placement and pricing. Very intuitive overall.


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