Fake social media profiles: My own experience with Facebook

Just read this blog in the economist, stating how many social media fans/ followers etc are actually fake machine generated accounts. The Blog mentions that Mitt Romney gained 17% followers in a day and interestingly, a friend tweeted about Mitt Romney losing 11 followers per minute.

Arguably this machine generation of fake profiles, is of some benefit to the organization ( say Romney), but I bet also helps build up the numbers of social media service.
A few weeks ago Facebook prompted me to friend one Harsh Taneja. It was indeed a fake profile of myself. The picture and the “about me” description among other details were scraped from this blog. Interestingly this clone of mine and I also had 7 or 8 mutual friends already. Curious I decided to send a friend request to myself and magically it was accepted in some hours. I reported the profile and I think in a day it was taken down ( as I am unable to find it on searching).

Made me think, it is indeed to easy to create fairly real looking machine generated profiles, given the amount of self descriptions we leave on the web, that can be viewed publicly or semi-privately. And it is quite easy for these profiles to circulate unchecked, as people can entirely miss seeing them, forget to report. In some other cases, they may be of people not on the service altogether ( say people who use blogger but not twitter, and their About Me pages on blogger provide fodder to generate these fake twitter profiles.) Scary!

Finally, I decided to use this service to check my own twitter followers and found that 5% of the followers were fake and another 13% inactive. Perhaps explains why tweeting some random but generic word such as Forex, or Television instantly adds a few followers.


One cent per character : Will celebrities help Twitter monetise?

So as expected twitter has finally started talking more concretely about its revenue strategies interestingly they have taken to advertising (promoted tweets) as the primary driver along with some exploration into paid accounts. This is an article that talks about these in some detail.

I somehow feel that it is the celebrity accounts of twitter that can give it its much needed revenue stream. Think of the number of followers that celebrities on twitter have generated. Shashi Tharoor ( India’s external affairs minister) has 715,000 followers, Priyanka Chopra ( a bollywood actress) has 250,000 and so on so forth. Even celebrities with a niche appeal say popular journalists (Like Thomas Friedman has over 50,000 followers). So What?

What if twitter begins to charge everyone who has greater than a certain follower base size, a small amount of money on a fixed basis? Would these guys pay? I am sure their respective PR companies will advise them to pay. After all some 750,000 Indians chose to invest their time in receiving updates about their foreign minister’s activities . Can priyanka chopra choose to ignore her fan base of 250,000 people now that she has started actively engaging with them?

I would be interested in answers.

Has user generated content killed old ‘media logic’ ?

Recently, at a graduate students’ party somewhere in Midwestern United States, two short and sweet videos got very spontaneously produced.

What intrigues me is that all it took was a gathering of a cross cultural group, some high “spirits” and these two videos got produced .At absolutely no cost, in absolutely no time. Yet a platform like YouTube ensures that they can be viewed by as many people, anywhere as many times – all for free. This is free automatic production and free consumption at its best.

I make no claims that these two videos are potential blockbusters. But then how often does prime time television or cinema for that matter produces hits? With a little bit of costs and promotions some of these nuggets can also assume blockbuster proportions as a fellow media enthusiast writes about Charlie. Charlie is one such success story among thousands.
Remember the funniest group dance. No one created it as a media event. But at 40,000 views, 88 high ratings, and 56 text comments, it has made its impact. It has engaged a larger community than MICA , a communication school in India where this was a dance performed at an annual function.Someone just videotaped and decided to share it online – the hyperlinked society ensured the rest

These are stories that question conventional media logic. The logic which involved high production and distribution resources, and subsidies from advertisers and consumers. In other words,does the concept of Free spell the death of culture industries?

Let me know if you have answers

Tweets as Text Messages: Unresolved questions for low internet penetration markets

I am sorry if the title of this post reads like a research paper, (yes you got it) I will blame it on pressures of Grad school. Anyhow:

There has been a lot of chatter that the power of twitter lies in its integration with mobile devices. More specifically tweets being 140 characters can be easily sent via text messaging. And given that in markets where internet growth has kind of hit a wall ( India) mobile phones and text messaging are growing like wildfire. I believe India has 500 million mobile users now versus some 35 million internet users and my sense is that only a third of these internet users would be accessing the net everyday. As for their cellphones well they wine, dine, move and even sleep with them.

So by signing deals akin to the one they signed recenty with with Bharti Airtel ( India’s largest mobile provider) is Twitter all set to widen its user base? Even if an average twitter user tweets twice a day it will cost him Rs 3, and given that there are 50 people he follows he recieves 100 tweets a day. That’s enough gossip to keep someone satiated . As for Twiter if 10 million people do this (2% of mobile users) and as per a revenue share arrangement with Bharti they earn Rs 0.50 per tweet that is about Rs 10 million a day ( USD 80 million annually) – this is assuming a very conservative user base ( If 9.5 millions are already on Facebook already twitter’s integration with text should give it a much larger user base).
Think Something’s amiss? Read on
Consider two people, Amit and Neha ,18 and 20 years old.(SEC B2) They go to a degree college in Muzzafarpur in Bihar (Imagined Data). They have had mobile phones for some time and by now are fairly hooked to text messaging. However they have never used the internet yet. How will they ever discover the utility of twitter? How will they add friends to follow? They represent 90% of India’s mobile users who (almost) all of whom don’t access the internet.

That said the euphoria surrounding Twitter and mobile devices is not unfounded. Existing users of twitter can tweet more frequently and actively ,on the move. But for the millions of ‘Amits’ and ‘Nehas’ how will they even learn about twitter and appreciate its use in their lives unless they discover it on the Web. The extended usage on mobile can only follow that discovery.

It’s a blessing that Web 2.0 is unable to monetize

I was recently ‘chatting’ ( yes online indeed!) with a friend about how gtalk and specifically chat within email is the biggest drain on my productivity among all the addictions I have. Even if you drink once a week, it only ruins half of the next morning, coffee makes people more alert and so on! My friend’s concen was how to get over his facebook addiction!

I indeed thought that perhaps my generation’s productivity without web chat may have been much higher, and an analysis of idle time spent on chatting, emailing, facebook etc at a micro (individual) level may reveal results that are shocking – the kinds we don’t want to know.

This is when I thought of something related, the struggle of internet companies to make money. I am sure most of you have come across articles, interviews and reports expressing concerns about (lack of) revenue models of new age websites like facebook and twitter. The fact that users are addicted, yet may not be willing to pay for using these means money has to come in indirectly – so advertising, virtual goods, analytics, trendspotting and what have you.

And I blurted out on that chat – It will be good if these companies close down before they figure out how to make money. Maybe the world will be free of its newly found addictions!