Even if you’re not a soccer fan, you’ve likely heard a lot about FIFA recently. The international soccer federation responsible for the highly lucrative World Cup has been under heavy fire in the news following the arrest of several top FIFA officials in Switzerland on corruption charges in May. This follows long-standing rumors of bribery, extortion and general dishonesty.
While in of itself this type of scandal is a definite hit to the FIFA brand, the soccer magnate has also recently been found to have made a smaller-scale, yet crucial, marketing misstep: over 60% of FIFA’s Twitter followers have been exposed as “fake.” Following an investigation conducted by digital marketing firm, Elrelo.com, 8% of their followers are fake accounts, while a whopping 54% were reported as inactive.
So what is the significance of this, and what does it mean from a marketing standpoint?
In theory, Twitter followers are a way for brands to gauge their reach: who is interested in FIFA’s brand. But in reality, Twitter follower numbers are merely about projecting an image of popularity. It’s a common misconception that the number of followers a profile has is really that meaningful or beneficial. There are third-party sites that capitalize on this myth and offer buyable followers. These “zombie” accounts don’t actually offer any benefit to the brand, and here’s why: engagement is what really matters. Getting followers to interact by retweeting, favoriting and sparking conversation is what truly boosts a brand’s reach and influence. On top of that, fake followers can lead to misleading demographic data and metrics when it comes to your success. Think about it: if you have over 50% “zombie” accounts, your analysis will reflect that over 50% of your followers never engage at all.
The takeaway here is this: getting genuine support and interest from real followers is what indicates the success of a social media campaign. Trying to boost your follower numbers with fake accounts causes far more harm than good. In FIFA’s case, it caused more damage to their already heavily tarnished reputation. Instead of focusing on sheer quantity of followers, aim for quality, and see results you can measure accurately and draw conclusions from.