How Much For a Celebrity Retweet?

I can be witty, I can be profound, I can do all sorts in 140 characters or less. But unless I bung Sporty Spice a monkey, I fear no one will listen.
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I can be witty, I can be profound, I can do all sorts in 140 characters or less. But unless I bung Sporty Spice a monkey, I fear no one will listen.

Got $2,247 spare?

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It's the great social dilemma of the 21-st century – how do you increase the number of people following you on Twitter?

After barely two weeks with a Twitter account, I’ve scraped the dizzying total of 30. I belatedly starting using Twitter as a marketing tool, a cheap way of getting my CV out to people, but I appear to be trapped in some kind of Cyber-Groundhog Day where I’m selling my wares to the same 30 people day after day.

Actually, there are a couple of options open to me.

The expensive one is to pay a celebrity to follow or retweet me.  Until this Saturday, 150 celebrities are auctioning their tweetability to raise money for Haiti.  You can bid to have Alicia Keys follow you for 90 days or Gordon Ramsay to retweet one of your messages.  Or you can opt for the full package, where a celebrity will follow, retweet and mention you.  As of this moment, with two days of bidding remaining, Jessica Alba’s package is the most popular, with the current bidding standing at $4,650.

A similar package with Guns’n’Roses will currently cost you a mere $132.50.

Of the British tweeters on offer, the Stephen Fry package currently stands at $2,247, while Melanie Chisholm aka Sporty Spice – yes, apparently she is capable of producing prose in 140-character bursts – will cost you $525.  Her erstwhile bandmate Victoria Beckham’s tweet package is available for $1,525. For the Lidl shoppers, Simon Pegg will RT one of your tweets for a mere $250.

Even cheaper are the retweets offered by pneumatic Sin City actress Rosario Dawson and sylph-like rapper Snoop Dogg - $90 and $92 respectively.

You can bid now at www.twitchange.com.

But if you’re really strapped for cash, there’s the budget tweeter’s option – you can buy packages of followers – from 100 to 5,000 – on eBay (look under “Business, Office & Industrial > Marketing”)

“We will deliver 500+ Real & Active Followers to your Twitter Page for £5.99”, says one of the advertisers. They promise to “deliver them to your Twitter page within three days”.

"Jessica Alba’s package is the most popular, with the current bidding standing at $4,650. A similar package with Guns’n’Roses will currently cost you a mere $88.69."

Other sellers offer similar deals. You can buy 1,000 followers for £10.99 or 5,000 for £50. That’s a penny a follower. The sellers promise: “All the people we introduce to your Twitter account are REAL people and active users of Twitter, from all around the world.”

I was sorely tempted to press the PayPal button straight away. The prospect of being able to tweet my CV to that many people was a no-brainer.

No matter how many times I ask my existing followers to retweet my pithy observations on life, love and joblessness, my total has barely flickered. (Imagine the shame of having to ask to be retweeted.) In fact, I’ve actually lost a follower recently (I have no idea who they were or why they chose to give up on me just when I was really starting to master the art of profundity in less than 140 characters).

But I never did order an extra 500 followers, because I discovered there was a high likelihood that my new “followers” would be the products of a Twitter Follower Farm.

It sounds like something out of Philip K Dick novel, yet makes perfect sense in a world where a business is defined by the number of its Facebook fans or YouTube subscribers.

The Twitter Follower Farms are one of the more bizarre manifestations of the sprawling technological cornucopia embracing the world - thousands of on-line labourers tapping away at keyboards in cramped apartments in Communist-era tower blocks on the outskirts of smog-ridden Chinese cities. They harvest millions of false identities and assign them Twitter accounts where they are destined to become – at a price – followers to the vain, lonely and desperate on the other side of the world.

But just like the old adage about money not being able to buy true friendship, nor can it buy you true Twitter followers. These “followers” are empty husks who will never call, write or remember your birthday. And, more importantly, they will never read or retweet your words of wisdom (or CV).

Respected social media commentator Erick Schonfeld says that while evidence for the farms is anecdotal, their existence is confirmed by the fact that the price of packages of followers on eBay has fallen from the equivalent of 15 pence per follower to a penny in the last year.

“So are Twitter followers simply worthless as many people have suspected all along?” he writes at TechCrunch.com.

“Follower counts don’t tell you that. Just as all website visitors are not worth the same, neither are all Twitter followers. But you can’t buy real followers. They come to you.”

As for me, unless any of my existing followers start retweeting my CV any time soon, there’s nothing for it. I’m going to have to bid $89 for Guns’n’Roses…..

You can follow Trevor Ward at twitter.com/willwrite4cake

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