Last Thursday, Camilla Brown, an account manager at Manifest London, received an unsolicited email offering her “10,000 Twitter followers in 24hrs”. For some reason, in defiance of received wisdom, she decided to reply.
“Was it the arrogant language? The cockiness? The lack of personalisation? I’m not sure,” she says. “Either way, I disliked them immediately. And seeing that this company called themselves ‘social media ninjas’ just made it worse.”
Brown typed: “This is the worst email I’ve ever received. Shame on you, Andy,” hit send, and expected to hear nothing more.
But she did. Andrew Lenney of Bazookr immediately fired back… and back, and back, until Brown became so incensed that she took to Twitter to vent her frustration at being abused by a low-rent marketing company exchanging fake Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest followers for money.
Lenney eventually threatened to snitch on Brown, telling her that he knew her boss. He wrote: “Why don’t I call Nev and tell him how you deal with people? You never know who knows who. Be careful. Polite warning. All the best…”
Furious at Lenney’s bullying, Brown went to town, publicly lambasting the company for their questionable business practices, precipitating a firestorm of criticism and ridicule from her followers.
Her bosses backed her, via email and on the social network.
According to Bazookr’s website, their “special offer” on Twitter followers “will skyrocket your presence on Twitter and generate instant credibility for your brand, leaving your competitors standing.
“These followers are NOT targetted or profiled, which means they will NOT engage with you via Twitter (i.e. mentions, retweets etc.). Think of these followers as a ‘BIG’ number and a solid foundation to build on.”
Managing Bazookr’s own credibility is likely to be challenging in light of this row, however, particularly given the dysfunctional way Bazookr manages its own presence on social media: the company’s Twitter account has maintained a mysteriously constant number of followers over the past three months, while at one point on Friday following only Brown.
It is also interacting, apparently unwittingly, with spoof accounts, such as a recent parody set up to mock TechCrunch blogger Mike Butcher. According to one reputable social media consultant we spoke to this afternoon, it would be almost impossible for any serious technology service business not to know of Butcher and recognise they were being jeered at.
By common consent in the media, technology, public relations and marketing industries, follower gaming is a grubby and disreputable practice that seeks to misrepresent a brand or individual’s influence and audience.
Social media consultants who have in the past gamed their follower counts and been found out have been subjected to widespread ridicule.
But Bazookr is evidently not averse to cutting corners. Until it was pointed out to Lenney on Friday, the company was unashamedly using an image from Nintendo’s “Ninjatown” game as its corporate logo in promotional materials and on Twitter, in breach of Nintendo’s copyright.
The image was still visible on Bazookr’s website this afternoon.
A spokesman for Twitter has previously told The Kernel that services promising massive gains in Twitter followers over short spaces of time, in return for a fee, are almost certainly in violation of the social network’s terms and conditions.
Bazookr had not immediately returned a request for comment as we went to press, but Lenney told us on Saturday that “many, many companies rely on us to get a leg up on social media”.
More fool them.