In 2011, I blogged extensively about a former practicing lawyer who manipulated his Twitter following to appear much more popular to prospective clients than he actually was. I even reached out to the FTC and made a public comment on the need to update its Online Advertising Guidelines to protect consumers and businesses about these practices.
In 2012, I met with multiple members of the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division (NAD) in New York City (I have the emails to prove it) to warn them about the issue of fake and inflated social media followings and credentials. While my initial contact (who is a lawyer) was very generous with her time, her superiors cast doubt on my belief that this was a major consumer protection issue so my warnings were not heeded.
Over the weekend, The New York Times published an investigative report on Social Media Credential Fraud and the fallout has started. Numerous famous people accused of inflating their social media presence have been exposed. The Chicago Sun-Times movie critic has even been suspended over the allegations that his Twitter presence was greatly inflated.
While the New York State Attorney General has announced it will investigate the companies selling Twitter followers, it needs to cast a much wider net. The Social Media Influencer advertising industry is filled with fraud and the New York Attorney General and the FTC should open an investigation into the entire social media advertising industry because consumers and those who pay Social Media Influencers to promote their brands are being misled by intentionally false and inflated social media followings.