Brands shouldn't focus on follower counts as the main indicator of internet marketing success because spammers still sell fake accounts.

Brands looking for instant results from social media marketing should avoid any tactics that promise topnotch results without any work. A recent study suggests follower counts may not be a reliable indicator that companies’ social content is engaging target audiences because some Twitter users are engaging in spammy tactics to inflate their networks.

If marketers are looking for ways to improve social media content results, they should consider audience targeting and lead generation tools.

According to BarracudaLabs’ latest data, there are still dozens of companies selling fake Twitter followers online. An eBay search fielded 52 companies offering to supplement brands’ social networks with fake profiles at less than one cent a pop (the going price is $11 for one-thousand connections, down from $18 per thousand in August 2012).

Authorities policing the site have identified more than 99,000 fake accounts and 1,147 abusers (Twitter users who had fake followers in their networks). Twitter has not taken any action against this practice yet, but the site has cracked down on spammy practices in the past.

While it might be tempting to artificially inflate follower counts, this practice does not provide ROI benefits to companies’ social marketing campaigns. Fake accounts can’t convert or pad companies’ bottom lines. SumAll recently reported the average value of a Tweet is $25.62. However, marketers may be shrinking their revenue potential by sharing social media content with fake followers.

Marketers must be able to measure Twitter ROI.

To generate real-world results that justify investments in social marketing, companies should stick with white hat practices. Audience targeting can help marketers segment demographics who are most engaged with the brand and create content that’s most likely to push customers through the sales funnel. 

New tools are also becoming available to help companies measure results on social – Twitter recently added the Lead Generation card to its Tweet templates, allowing brands to seamlessly collect followers’ contact data. These qualified leads can be used in email outreach and other campaigns that drive website traffic and improve conversions.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.