Azeem Azhar, chief executive of online reputation start-up PeerIndex, has been caught “gaming” his Twitter followers, in an apparent attempt to bolster his online reputation. The news will come as an embarrassment to PeerIndex as the company attempts to establish its authority against American rivals Klout and Kred.
Social monitoring service TwitterCounter.com records that Azhar acquired 19,362 followers in just 24 hours on 2 March this year. “Short of appearing in the Super Bowl halftime show, I’m not sure there’s any legitimate way someone might have gained that many people that quickly,” a social media consultant, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Kernel.
“More likely is that he has used one of the many disreputable websites offering followers for a fee.”
The Kernel was alerted to Azhar’s odd leap in online fans after one of his followers noticed a tweet recording “14 retweets and 13 mentions” in a week. “That doesn’t sound like the sort of numbers you’d get with 20,000 genuine, engaged fans,” said our source. Azhar currently boasts 21,787 followers. By comparison, Joe Fernandez, high-profile chief executive of the better-known Klout, has 12,638.
PeerIndex’s website was displaying the motto “we value social” on its front page this afternoon. It’s not known what precise value the company’s chief executive places on appearing more influential than he really is, but websites claiming to supply bogus followers offer 10,000 of them for as little as $45.
Azhar told The Kernel this afternoon: “I bought followers from Fiverr in March or April, for no other reason than to demonstrate it could be done and to see and demonstrate how it wouldn’t affect core PeerIndex rankings.
“Follower counts don’t affect core PeerIndex. I can’t speak for other systems.”