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Ask HN: Should a startup CEO tell his employees he's buying Twitter followers?
6 points by dbolkensteyn 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 9 comments
Say you work at an early stage SaaS startup that's not getting much traction, when all of a sudden you see it's finally coming in the form of Twitter followers.

How would you feel later if you saw your employer's Twitter account get suspended? If the CEO hid this from his employees, do you think there is any way to recover from it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfbUl9OuEQw






I would mildly chuckle and not expect any response from the CEO about it. I would mostly expect there to be a new twitter profile with an extra underscore in it, after a small appeals process.

A twitter account getting suspended after growing doesn't mean anything. It can just as easily be some random automated system flagging it, or a competitor or disgruntled customer.

I also wouldn't care if the CEO was buying followers and not telling anyone. Who cares. All this stuff is very relative. The investors are probably using laundering oligarch money in one of the feeder funds, and the business' "organic" customers are probably just other portfolio companies of the investor, juicing the revenues of other companies using the exact same capital.

You get paid either way. You are getting paid right?

If you are sensitive enough and privileged enough to think any of this matters and that you need to "choose" a company that has every single thing organic, interesting, popular, has perfect managers, perfect co-workers, and a perfect work-life balance, why are you even working?


> the business' "organic" customers are probably just other portfolio companies of the investor, juicing the revenues of other companies using the exact same capital.

And thus YC's secret sauce has been revealed.


Great reply, lots of things to internalize there!

To answer the direct question:

> Should a startup CEO tell his employees he's buying Twitter followers?

No, unless it's relevant.

To expand on the answer a bit, getting Twitter followers isn't traction or useful (for 99% of startups). Unless those Twitter followers are converting to paying users, that's a vanity metric.


Buying traction is always a red flag. A lot of startups put it under their marketing budget. It's worrying because now VCs will check everything to see that it's not fake instead of just believing you.

I know a marketplace startup that did used clothes. The CEO would buy them off the market. A lot of people would put a single item on the app once to test it, then when someone actually bought it, they'd put a lot more. So that was fake traction leading into real traction, and that's fine.

I'd say if $1 marketing budget leads to $1.10 of sales, that's fine. If it's $1 leading to $0, that's not. If the number is used to raise money from investors, then that's probably fraud if not disclosed.


A few questions:

- Why does the number of twitter followers matter? Did the employees also see a rise in the number of users who signed up for the product?

- A dead giveaway on bought followers is the lack of interaction; Your account has 100k followers but only 5 likes and one reply..

My suggestion would be "Don't do it", but if you already did and went down that way then hire a freelance social-media person for a week, after they leave you can pretend its their fault.


I don't know the answer to your question, but that's not how you do this with current over sensitive employees.

Usually you pay a company to take care of your startup social presence and if it happens that the followers are bought, the CEO will say "my bad, did not do enough due diligence on our provider, will fire them effective immediately". All happy.


Twitter followers aren't traction. Just like people reading your blog posts isn't traction. Traction is people signing up for the product, people using the product and people paying you money.

Someone on HN suggested buying a profile and rebranding it. I think that’s much better ROI than buying followers



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