You would have caught the latest allegations made online against Woolworths, with regard to their allegedly racist employment practices. Following an extensive investigation, 2oceansvibe can reveal that the blogger whistleblower has some integrity/challenging skeletons of his own. Again the issue of fabricated online clout rears its ugly head.
Justin Harrison has repeatedly stressed that his vocal campaign against Woolworths entirely legal and wholly normative employment policy has nothing to do with boosting his own public profile.
— Justin Harrison (@justinharrison) September 5, 2012
In his own words, Harrison is only concerned with doing the “right” thing.
Regardless of whether you believe his stance against Woolworths holds merit or not, one can at least admire anyone Harrison’s conviction to do what is “right” according to his personal convictions.
It must be stressed from the outset that this article has nothing to do with the strength or weakness of Harrison’s dispute with Woolworths, but rather, it is an examination Harrison’s behaviour online, and whether that behaviour squares with his repeated exhortations to do the morally right thing.
In the process of keeping tabs on the unfolding story, it was noticed that Harrison, who was vocal on Twitter, had an impressive number of followers, but seemed to be relatively unknown in the South African twittersphere.
Harrison is a self-described “internationally recognised social media expert”, and resides in Durban.
Essentially, if one is so inclined, Twitter followers can be bought online by the thousand for a relatively low fee. The result is a glut of followers appended to your account, all of which are inactive, and fictitious. Real human beings do not operate those accounts.
Free-to-use tools, like Twitter Audit and StatusPeople analyse samples of an account’s twitter followers, and report on rates of inactivity and other metrics to deliver a percentage report of how many followers are “fake” or inactive. The implication is that the report gives you the true reach of your Twitter account. Typically, almost everyone will have a small percentage of fake Twitter followers on their accounts, but higher percentages should raise red flags immediately.
However, the developers of such tools admit that they are not 100% accurate, so we enlisted the help of paid-for analytics tools from SEOmoz, widely regarded by industry professionals to be an accurate analytics tool.
We asked a prominent member of the South African digital marketing community, who wished to remain anonymous, what they thought of the high concentration of Harrison’s followers in the United States and Europe.
“When there’s a massive spread like that in the States and Europe for a South African, it spells fake followers.”
Further analysis of Harrison’s followers revealed high rates of inactivity.
15 000 of Harrison’s followers have never sent a tweet, and a further 5 000 have tweeted 1 to 49 times only.
Asked to comment on those statistics, the source simply stated, “This smells like bots.”
Confronted with questions regarding the high number of inactive users on his account by Twitter user, @Konfytbekkie, Harrison pleaded ignorance.
But it seems like Harrison was called out for the high number of fake followers on his account as far back as 2009, and his reaction was quite different, claiming “medium experimentation” as the explanation for his bogus followers.
as I said to your pal “JBagley” – yes this is medium experimentation, and there is no need for being self richeous. — Justin Harrison (@justinharrison) March 22, 2009
What motivation would Harrison have for lying about his Twitter following? It might have something to do with August 9, 2012, when his already-inflated twitter following jumped from 17 500 followers, to a staggering 44 000, in a single day. CLICK HERE for the interactive graph
… aww shucks…. I just reached 43,000 twitter followers, to celebrate I added a golden mouse to my FB page LOL (can you say bizzare). — Justin Harrison (@justinharrison) August 10, 2012
Shortly thereafter, Harrison began soliciting brands including Volkswagen, Mercedes, and Jeep for gifts and car reviews off the back of his “massive” Twitter following.
I like that #VW are following my social activty and have offered to bring me a #VW Touareg to test drive… well done guys.
— Justin Harrison (@justinharrison) August 22, 2012
Thank you #Mercedes for my awesome gift… you guys rock!
— Justin Harrison (@justinharrison) August 23, 2012
Harrison’s obvious economy with the truth calls into question the veracity of the statistics on his Facebook and YouTube platforms. It goes without saying that high numbers of views or likes on either platform would bolster his credibility as “an internationally recognized Internet Marketing Expert and Internet Marketing entrepreneur”, as he describes himself on his Facebook Page.
Could Harrison be “gaming” the statistics of his Facebook and YouTube accounts, much in the same way that he did his Twitter account?
Harrison’s YouTube account is populated by short video diary-style videos, running the usual gamut of Internet marketing discussion topics. For the most part, the veiws of each of the videos play in the hundreds, as one would expect for a niche topic, personally produced video on YouTube.
Two videos, however, stand out from among the others in a very big way indeed.
“Internet Marketing Upstart Program – Background Video Part 1” and “Internet Marketing Upstart Program – Background Video Part 2” have garnered 10 646 and 10 523 views respectively. Two things are highly unusual about this. Firstly, their viewership is almost identical. Typical online video viewer behaviour always trends toward a relatively sizable decline in viewership in multi-part videos covering the same topic. This is not the case in this instance. Secondly, over 10 000 views is a helluva lot for a highly niche subject, produced and uploaded in South Africa.
A cursory examination of the video statistics (available next to the main view counter on YouTube videos) reveals highly irregular viewership uptake.
The statistics of the first video show that after the videos first referral (i.e. publishing on YouTube), the viewership graph skyrockets to over 10 000 views, almost immediately, despite the stats reporting that the referral garnered only four video views. Because the incredible upswing occurs before any of the other referral events in the history of the video, we know that manipulation of statistics has taken place. It’s also important to note that almost no viewership growth occurs after the initial spike.
The same is true for the second video.
Much like Twitter followers, YouTube views are for sale. The views on these two videos would have cost Harrison $60, if he had made use of this service. We tested it ourselves and the graphics/results were identical to the screenshot above.
Before we dive into Harrison’s Facebook stats, it’s important to get up to speed with the health of the Facebook ecosystem right now.
In a filing earlier this year with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the social networking giant Facebook admitted that 8,7 percent of its 955 million members worldwide could in fact be in violation of its policies, with duplicate accounts, accounts that users maintain in addition to their principal accounts, make up 4,8 percent of that figure. In addition, the filing reveals user-misclassified accounts may have represented approximately 2,4 percent of Facebook s worldwide users, and undesirable accounts may have represented approximately 1,5 percent of their worldwide users.
Justin Harrison boasts 34 631 likes on his Facebook page.
It is slightly unusual, but not unheard of, for one “social media expert” to be garnering so much attention on any platform. By way of comparison, Quirk and Hello Computer DraftFCB, two of South Africa’s most critically acclaimed digital marketing agencies, sport 2 158 and 713 Facebook likes, respectively, a far cry from Harrison’s 30 000 plus followers. If we cast the net a little wider, we see that the Social Media arm of history’s most culturally-pervasive ad agency, Ogilvy Mather (GLOBAL!), fails to even make it past the 10 000 mark on Facebook likes. Not bad for one man from Durban.
It could be argued that the traditional role of digital agencies is to focus on directing real people to the Faceboook pages of their clients, and not their own, and that Harrison has merely adopted the opposite approach in this instance; but it is critically important to note that Harrison’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter account sported these incredible numbers well before he rose to online prominence on the back of his boycott against Woolworths.
If Harrison did “buy” Facebook likes, how could he have done it? Well, he could have used a cash for followers service (highlighted above), or he could have used the now-infamous “Virtual Bagels” method, where non-targeted ads are used to attract follows from duplicate or spam accounts – the self-same accounts, described above.
Buying followers, likes or YouTube views is not illegal. However, promoting your skills for hire on the basis of the resulting high numbers, or using those same numbers to report success on specific campaigns is what some might call fraud. At the very least, it’s part of the broader fraud family.
The broader issue revealed by Harrison’s antics is that manipulation of statistics in social media presents a very real threat to the business model of digital marketing and publishing in South Africa.
When all that publishers and digital marketing agencies ultimately have to offer is the reach and influence of their platform while statistic “gamesmanship” committed by the likes of Justin Harrison continues unabated, the result is a steady erosion of advertiser confidence in digital platforms as a low-risk, highly targeted means of reaching their audience. A realisation that will dishearten the many thousands of passionate, honest digital marketers in South Africa, who firmly believe that digital could represent the beginning of truly measurable advertising.
Despite numerous attempts at dialogue, and contact via email, Harrison ultimately refused to comment on questions we put to him, asking whether he had ever bought Twitter followers, and whether he could explain the massive spikes in his Twitter and YouTube statistics. Instead, he pointed us to this paragraph, in his latest blog post.
I will also not be doing ANY press interviews or answering ANY press questions, as this is not about raising my profile or pushing my own agenda. It’s about getting the people of South Africa talking to each other and using the only medium I know how to get that happening.
Are you a brand? Have you ever worked with Justin Harrison? Tell us what you think, below.
[Sources : CIO Insight,
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