In an industry rife with counterfeiting, luxury companies go to great lengths to protect their brands. Considering putting a red sole on your shoe, for (an obvious) example, and be prepared to see Mr. Louboutin in court. Thinking about emblazoning your handbag with something that looks even remotely like an “LV” or fastening an engraved medallion on your ballet flat? Think twice. What’s curious, though, is how quickly the rigor with which these brands normally pursue authenticity is cast aside in the social media space.

 

Fake Follower Checker, a recently released web app from Status People, helps to discern the real from the fake–from the inactive, many of whom are real people who join Twitter solely to observe, not broadcast. By taking a random sample of up to 1,000 followers, FFC identifies as fakes those accounts with few or no followers and few or no tweets. Though the tool only guarantees accuracy for accounts with fewer than 100,0000 followers, one can still use FFC with larger accounts for a top-line assessment of follower composition. It is with this caveat in mind that we encourage you to look at what we found when we put 96 luxury brands to the FFC test–a test whose results has us wondering if it’s the brands themselves perpetrating a fraud by either buying followers, or using other less-than-organic means to inflate their Twitter ranks.

 

The Top 10, by total numbers (real, fake, and inactive combined):

 

 

We found that, on average, approximately 15 percent and 39 percent of our 96 luxury brands’ Twitter followers were fake and inactive, respectively. The Top 10, re-ordered by “real” follower rank, as determined by FFC:

 

At 27 percent, Gucci (@Gucci) registered by far the largest percentage of fake followers in our study. YSL (@YSL), Marc Jacobs (@MarcJacobsIntl), Dior (@Dior), Michael Kors (@MichaelKors) and Kate Spade (@katespadeny), many of which rank in both Top 10s, also appear to have a 20 percent or greater fake following.

 

 

While these results certainly aren’t heartening, luxury brands can at least find solace in the fact that celebrities and politicians far out-fake them: almost half (47 percent) of Lady Gaga’s little Twitter monsters came up fake, and 41 percent of President Obama’s 19.8 million followers did as well.

 

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