Journalists buying followers on social media isn’t trivial. It’s unethical and it matters.

“Thumbs up” for 128,653 fake users.

Journalists are in the truth business

You are being inherently dishonest in buying followers. You’re trying to deceive someone, whether it’s the public — “Look at all the people that follow me. You should, too” — or your boss — “Look at how I’ve grown my social media footprint. I deserve a raise or a contract extension.” No one buys followers just because it’s fun. There’s an end game. Some level of purposeful deceit is part of that action. Without doubt, it’s damn hard work to build any kind of social following. It’s also hard work to tell a good story or make a great photo. The person who would take a shortcut and buy fans might be a person willing to take other shortcuts.

It leaves a stain on more than just you

Speaking of integrity, how do you think your employer looks when it’s revealed that you bought those followers? It doesn’t just impugn your reputation, it affects your company’s brand as well. Was your employer neglectful in not monitoring your social media behavior? Or, even worse, did it encourage its journalists to be deceitful in manner? Did this person’s coworkers also buy their Facebook friends? Trust is a fragile commodity.

It’s no different than falsifying your resume

When I hire people, I look at their social media accounts. Their activity. Their fluency with the language and platform. The engagement on their pages. And yes, even their followers. Let’s say the Tribune were hiring a Bears beat writer and we had two equal candidates, say Jane and Jen. Jane had 500,000 Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers and Jen had 500. Could that be a point of differentiation? Unquestionably, yes. There’s pressure in 2018 to have a robust social media following. It equates to tips and trust and traffic. That pressure, whether in Hollywood or the media, is why services like Devumi exist.

You’re supporting a shady industry based on trickery

If you pay someone $20 for 5,000 Twitter followers on the social media black market, where is your money going? What industry are you furthering with your investment? Let’s find out.



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Kurt Gessler

Kurt Gessler


Director of Editorial Ops at @ChicagoTribune et al. I also teach stuff at @UNLincoln @Unl_CoJMC. Practicing journalism et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur