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How to Fake an Internet Phenom in Five Easy Steps

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 4.13.41 PMTrue story: Kevin Ashton, general manager of consumer electronics firm, Belkin, offers a remarkable step-by-step tutorial in Quartz on how to create the next big household name using social media.

It’s easier than you’d think. Using some ingenuity and a little cash ($68, to be exact), Ashton created “Santiago Swallow,” a modern-day Internet celebrity with a verified Twitter account and more than 90,000 followers—who is entirely fake.

“On social media, it is easy to mistake popularity for credibility, and that is exactly what the fakers are hoping for,” Ashton writes. A couple of the tricks he used in creating Santiago, for example, was to inflate his presumed sphere of influence by buying Twitter followers and using TweetAdder to automatically get Santiago tweeting and retweeting every few minutes. Citing statistics from social media analytics company Status People, a growing number of social media celebrities have largely fake Twitter followers—in one case, a whopping 96 percent were fake accounts, with another 3 percent inactive.

But more and more people aren’t believing the hype, which has created a backlash against the truly famous: “People with large real Twitter followings, from celebrities to activists like Yoani Sanchez, are made to look guilty when they are in fact innocent,” Ashton writes. “By trying to inflate themselves with the electronic equivalent of silicon implants, fakers make the system noisy for everyone.”

Notoriety has become relative, making “Is it real—or is it Internet famous?” an increasingly pertinent question.

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