Early last year I found myself chatting with a guy who was co-ordinating a “collaborative project” involving a bunch of high profile bloggers and fashion designers. I was pretty skeptical about it especially because he kept on coming up with what I thought were rather silly explanations about the supposed success of the project, one of them being the fact that the people involved looked "good on camera". Our chat ended with him providing me with a series of numbers, showing Twitter followers per blogger. I remained pretty skeptical about too many things, as they say, there's safety in numbers, but is it safe to rely just on the quantity rather than the quality?
Months passed and, just a few days ago, when YouTube went through a painstakingly long review of the videos uploaded on its channels and cancelled billions of views after they found out they were faked, my personal encounter with the “Twitter followers counter guy” came back to my mind.
Yes, the main casualties of YouTube's cancelling process were majors such as Sony or Universal, the latter considered as the biggest loser of video views, but what would happen if the enforcement of YouTube's viewcount policy were applied to other fields such as fashion?
Let's sit down and think for a minute: it is now possible to buy packages of Twitter followers, Facebook fans and Likes and YouTube video views or employ unethical search engine optimisation tactics to increase the visibility of a specific site, so it is perfectly legitimate to wonder how many supposed icons or style, trendsetters, high profile bloggers and fashion houses have been “faking it”.
It may be undeniable that specific characters - like it or not - may have a real influence on trends, yet it is at the same time puzzling to think that, as much as famous they may be, someone like Anna Dello Russo or Bryanboy may have more Twitter followers than proper fashion critics or newspapers/magazines.
A quick check on Twitter reveals that Dello Russo and Bryanboy have a terrifically higher number of followers compared to the fashion pages of The Guardian and The Telegraph: there are roughly 16,000 Followers on The Guardian Fashion Twitter account and 32,000 on The Telegraph's dedicated Fashion Twitter, while there are over 100,000 followers for Dello Russo and over 300,000 for Bryanboy (please note: all the numbers in this post are taken from a personal review done at the time of writing, so early January 2013 and they may vary while you're reading this). You could justify such numbers by saying the two "celebrities" represent a different kind of voice from that of official papers, yet these two characters mainly provide us with posts and pictures revolving about their own selves, so they do not offer their "readers" any proper news, interviews or features.
The Independent has "only" got 150,000 followers on Twitter yet their tweets revolve around different subjects, from national and international news to art, culture, film, fashion and technology. Even The Daily Mail Twitter page has "only" got 188,000 followers, almost a small number considering how the paper is the guilty refuge of the bored and the obsessed thanks to its mix of gossips about celebrities, news on human cases, pictures of unfaithful footballers with their mistresses and other globally irresistible trash – note: The Daily Mail Showbiz Twitter page has only got roughly 20,000 followers, a small number for a celeb obsessed society).
In a nutshell, my question is how could someone who doesn't seem to have anything genuinely relevant to say have more followers than established publications? In a way you could almost justify a music artist having millions of views as people with different interests, professions and ages may like that specific artists. But fashion is not something so globally relevant as music and, puzzling enough, Dello Russo receives more harsh comments than positive ones on her YouTube videos, so how could this avalanche of Baroque bad taste be considered as someone to be followed by so many people?
While it's legitimate to wonder if something is rotten in cyberspace and who has been buying little packages of followers, fans, likes and video views, the most important question to answer is what would happen if there were a YouTube video view crackdown or a crackdown on Twitter followers, Facebook Likes and other assorted numbers on specific fashion related sites.
One of the main excuses printed magazines were given by advertisers who didn't want to buy ad space anymore was that they couldn't "count the views". Readers leaf through a magazine, see the advert of a fragrance for example, register it for a second and then go onto the next page, but when that advert is on the internet, on a fashion site or on a blogger's page, people can click upon it, and maybe even buy the product online. Counting is easier online, advertisers claimed, and so it was goodbye to money for printed magazines.
Yet the new sport of faking clicks may change the perspective of many people, advertisers included: if the music industry did it, it is very likely that the fashion indusry may have artificially inflated a few figures for the sake of money. If that happened, it would be interesting to see what would be the consequence of these dramatic cuts and crackdowns on fake views and fake numbers. Surely there woud be a huge commercial blow to many involved, but it would be of great interest to see who rose to fame not for their special talents, but for the fake clicks, views and followers that enabled them to appear far more popular than they really were, unfairly increasing their online exposure.Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos