Not the best start to Open Ireland

Update: As predicted by Pat Phelan and myself in private conversations, his Twitter follower account and mine suddenly gained 20,000+ each after our blog posts on buying followers. Comments like “well you also have bought followers” were then passed on. Also, thanks for the threatening text message over the below post. Screenshotted for posterity.


Seán O’Sullivan (co-coiner* of the phrase cloud computing) launched his Open Ireland initiative this week and miracle of miracles he gained 15k followers on Twitter in a few hours. As the numbers skyrocketed he bragged about it and attributed it to the Open Ireland coverage.


Until people pointed out they were “spam” followers. AKA they were bought. Seán of course claimed no idea of how that happened. He said at first he thought it was a hacker:


Then later he said at first he thought it was a celeb mentioning him:


Seán’s employee Bill Liao who claims to have co-founded Xing…


Tweet above from the founder of Xing.

… had the same issue with these “spammers” going from 30k followers to 110k in a very short space of time. He too doesn’t know where they came from:


If I saw myself go from 30k to 50k to 100k followers and noted they were all spam accounts I’d be worried about my account security and would report it to Twitter.

Bill instead will Tweet about you for cash to his 25k (when the ads were starting they were this) and now 100k followers. This is what he is saying on his Fiverr profile. Oddly, this is also the site where you can buy “spam” followers!


There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter about faking follower numbers recently and also over on Pat’s blog. Experienced people can spot fakery but tell media people you are now followed by 80k people and they might not fully check, repeat it and one fake number makes you seem way more powerful than you are.

A conspiracy theorist though might suggest this was timed like that to do damage to the Open Ireland initiative. Or it might have been an intern going rogue. That happens a lot. Still, not the best start to this new intiative.

BTW, with past experience of blog posts of this nature I’m betting I’ll be classed as a bully, made people cry, I’m anti-Ireland, anti-jobs and more. I do admit to all of those and being anti-bullshit too.

* that’s a new one to me

9 Responses to “Not the best start to Open Ireland”

  1. Not detracting from the other valuable points – though not all the points made are valuable – made above but Lars Hinrichs might like to explain this Xing press release from 2008:

  2. Dave Davis says:

    It’s pretty easy to spot. There are hundreds of twitter counter/monitoring apps out there.

    Organic Vs paid for followers are pretty easy to spot. Same goes for facebook. There are of course exceptions to the rule (which no doubt this will be claimed as) but ultimately, it’s THEIR time and money that’s being wasted.

    A while back I wrote a blog post comparing the organic social growth vs the clearly non organic growth of some pretty (apparently) “big/popular” Irish startups and companies. I decided not to post it but it was pretty interesting. Especially considering some get acquired for millions based partially on those inflated numbers.

  3. David Quaid says:

    Hi Damien,

    Well written post and really interesting. It seems really odd behaviour.

    When someone told me about this last night, I just couldn’t understand why Bill Liao would be on Fiverr. Ok, not a lot of work for $5 but are things that bad?

    Too true to stand up to people who buy followers and to keep the torch lighting about engagement -v- trying to build a free-to-air network.

    Would it be ok to play Devil’s Advocate and ask if it was possible that someone could have bought “150k followers” on fiverr and also setup an account called Bill Liao ? Just for shits & giggles?


    Unless its a locked account, you don’t need permission. I mean, anyone could send 100k followers at any of our accounts – how would we defend it?

  4. Paul Walsh says:

    Before deleting my old twitter ac with 8k followers 3 years ago people used to ask “how do I attract more followers?”

    Ans: you don’t try to attract followers. You simply do this social stuff because you enjoy it, because you learn a lot and because you can create new relationships while strengthening others. Ego also plays a part but it’s secondary.

    Trying to attract followers is sad, false and short sighted. And you’ll end up with meaningless numbers.

    Buying followers is also short sighted and silly.

  5. Biggest question for me is WHY!!?? Why would they do this? Seems a bit of an amateur mistake? Like something I might do LOL!! After that, they always say (they’re great, “they”) mistakes are made, it’s what you do then that really counts. Could have been handled better perhaps.

    In my innocence I will ask – Could someone buy spam followers for someone else’s twitter account? Just wondering like.

  6. Cormac says:

    @davedavis. That would be an interesting read. My @mactrast a/c is going through a strange flux for the last 6 months. Strong growth in numbers into a slump

    I gave a fuck for about a month but don’t care now. Still getting an increase in traffic while the follower numbers drop.*

    I just put it down to Twitter cleaning up and deleting spam accounts.

    * NONE of which we ever paid for. Pretty easy to tell legit accounts by looking at followers, as you said.

  7. Your clickthru rate is pretty strong too

  8. Dave Davis says:

    It is easy to spot.
    Here’s the Redfly VS Mulley follower growth curve:

    Almost exactly the same.

    And SOS VS Redfly:

    Not many data points to work with but you get the picture.

  9. […] Ignoring how easy it would be to cheat this promise, you do realise you can cut out the middle man and, um, buy a Lotto ticket. Using peoples weird gambling hardon for the Lotto to gain Likes seems pretty wrong to me and is very similar to just buying followers. […]