It's not just crypto exchange data that's being manipulated. Tron Founder Justin Sun recently bragged about his popularity on Twitter, saying he was the "first one in [the] crypto world to break through 1 million" followers.
Indeed, Sun's Twitter profile displays 1.01 million followers, which surpasses those amassed by many of his peers, including chief rival Ethereum Creator Vitalik Buterin, who boasts 842,000 followers. As one Twitter bot researcher pointed out, however, a common thread throughout many of Sun's new follower accounts is that they are suspicious in nature.
— Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) March 21, 2019
First Mover Advantage
In Sun's quest to become first at something -- anything -- in a highly competitive blockchain space, he seems to have broken the unwritten rule of know-your-followers (KYF). His newfound Twitter fame in March coincided with a $20 million free cash giveaway involving a free Tesla, the qualifications for which include retweeting his announcement.
Not surprisingly, this generated momentum for him on the social media platform, culminating with the appearance of a million followers. Twitter bot researcher and social media influencer Geoff Golberg points out, however, that something is amiss.
Golberg notes that some "20,000 of Sun's most recent 50,000 Twitter followers" were added in March alone, which incidentally is when the Tesla campaign kicked off. Even more suspicious is the fact that many of the new fans are following a single account -- Justin Sun -- and have no followers to speak of themselves. Their Twitter handles, meanwhile, show little thought and instead appear to be something out of the auto-generated museum.
Following Sun was the first requirement to qualify for the Tesla; the second was to retweet his announcement, which appears to be working like a charm.
Attacked by Bots
The issue of fake Twitter bot followers hits close to home for Golberg, whose own Twitter account was attacked by bots back in 2016 when he noticed his "Twitter account was gaining followers at a ridiculous rate." He concluded: "I am certain that my account was “maliciously [targeted by] someone with bot followers to make [me] look bad."
As a social media influencer, fake followers are frowned upon. He initially turned to the Twitter team and later the Twitter Help Center, neither of which proved particularly effective. This led Golberg to use TwitterAudit, a tool that reveals the percentage of an account's followers that aren't real, only to find that thousands of his followers were in fact fake.
"As Authentic as Jussie Smollet's Beatdown Story"
The replies to Golberg's research on Justin Sun reveal that the Tron founder's marketing strategy was not lost on crypto Twitter, with one response in the thread suggesting that @jack (Jack Dorsey) "drop him off that 1M perch." Another said: "Those followers are as authentic as Jussie Smollet's beatdown story." In jest, yet another commenter suggested that they call the FBI, which in light of the current state of U.S. intelligence agencies these days wasn't such a bad idea.
— Nevermore (@Nevermorexbt) March 23, 2019
Justin Sun is nothing if not a master marketer. As long as the strategy continues to win over exchanges, investors, and dApp users, however, the crypto community can look forward to more of the same from the Tron founder. It's not so much that he doesn't play fair, but he does come dangerously close to the foul line.