In the world of social media popularity, every like and follower on a website is now translating to dollar signs for some social media moguls.
Overnight fame has been available to the public with just a click and a credit card. Icons from Barack Obama to Paris Hilton have been accused of buying views and likes on sites such as YouTube and Twitter.
“Celebrities have always had PR stunts but this is like another tool for them to use,” Frank Elaridi, a 2012 University of La Verne alumn and freelance producer for ABC, said.
Twitter has been the site of some of the scandal of false popularity. Users can buy followers so that they can spread their tweets and their ideas around faster since they can “trend” on the popular social media website, said Elaridi who broke the story on the online video news site Tubefilter on Nov. 25 of this year.
“I got the idea when a friend told me about buying views and followers for Twitter and YouTube,” Elaridi said. “I searched online but I couldn’t find anything. This was like a big secret so I had to do a story on it. I feel like it’s this big, corporate secret.”
Large companies such as Sony, Universal Music Group and other music labels that represent big stars such as Rihanna and Justin Bieber have been accused of buying fake views for their clients.
Even director Ryan Turner has had his share of buying fake views for his 2011 YouTube video, “Harry Potter Alternate Ending.” Although more views generally brings more fame, Turner found that the purchased popularity didn’t help.
It didn’t really change anything except that it inflated my view count,” Turner said. “It doesn’t change whether or not people watched the video.”
Although Turner bought views early in his YouTube directing career, he now prefers his videos to gain acclamation with genuine numbers rather than spend money on empty numbers.
His Palm Springs Film Festival winning video, “I’m Not Gay” reached 1 million views without having to buy the fame.
“It’s so much more rewarding when you earn your views organically,” Turner said. “When you buy views, you’re not going to get exposure. All you’re getting is bragging rights that you bought.”
“There are so many websites that offer this service. If you want followers, all you have to do is Google it,” Elaridi said.
These fake views are just automated accounts that follow the profiles.
One website called Devumi claims it can add thousands of Twitter followers. For about $42, a person can purchase 5,000 twitter followers within 3-7 days, Elaridi said.
While some might find the new trend tempting, Turner and Elaridi don’t recommend trying it.
“I don’t think it’s a good way to get a following since it isn’t a following,” Turner said. “Buying the views may make you look cooler, but you really want to have good, consistent stuff.”
“I think it’s important to realize it can be a good tool, but it can also hurt you,”Elaridi said. “If you rely on it, you don’t pay attention to the content. At the end of the day, it’s the content that matters.”
To read Elaridi’s article, “On the Internet, Is Fame For Sale?,” visit here.
Rachel Sandoval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karla Rendon can be reached at email@example.com.
An earlier version of “Alumnus uncovers cost of Internet fame” (Dec. 6) has been edited to correct the site that first published Elaridi’s story, and to clarify the involvement of Twitter.
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