Tweets from fake Twitter users could prompt the microblogging site to reevaluate processes, according to some industry observers.
Anyone with an email address can create a Twitter account with any name that is not taken -- and begin posting 140-character-or-less messages to anyone who "follows." But things aren't always what they seem. You are left with the very real possibility of someone impersonating a celebrity posting to a sea of followers pretending to be brand advocates.
"It's the nature of the Internet," says Yves Darbouze, creative director at pLot Multimedia. "Twitter needs to come up with an official stamp for each Twitter page, so people can authenticate who they follow."
Darbouze and pLot Multimedia have led several re-branding campaigns for Bad Boy Entertainment, Obama's presidential campaign, Toyota, and Hennessey. The company has also been working to brand clients P. Diddy and Mucinex.
With any social network, there will be people who game the system. People posted porn to YouTube when it first launched because it was unregulated. Similarly, Facebook and MySpace have dealt with privacy issues and imposing filters. Technorati has also gone through several iterations of the way it measures blogs because of spam.
And what about pLot? The company hired more than a dozen people to tweet about products and services on Twitter. Darbouze calls them "buzz agents." It's important for damage control, he says. By creating these proxy accounts, we're able to support messages and excitement about things," he says. "Sometimes people just go with the crowd. If you create the crowd with the accounts by proxy, you can pretend you're someone you are not. You also can create public opinion and sway someone on the fence."
Incentives to enter ethical gray areas to market products and services sometimes find a client's social media campaign walking a fine line, although it's not illegal, says Paul Verna, senior analyst at eMarketer. The brand will hire feeding companies to virally spread content that looks user-generated, but it's not.
Twitter may impose consumer privacy and safety regulations and find a way to authenticate user names that should rid the site of celebrity entertainer, sports and corporate imposters. "The way corporate companies use social media is sometimes murky," Verna says. "It leads people to think you're an average consumer when you're a hired gun."