Don't be left out.

NY Times reveals the fake followers business

This is an informal response and my initial raw thoughts on The Follower Factory. Excuse any typos.

Saturday, The New York Times published The Follower Factory, which explains the age-old story of celebrities purchasing fake followers. The article exposes Devumi, a company that manages 3.5 million fake social media accounts so they can offer social-boosting services to high profile people. I was first surprised when I heard the company was based in America, as it’s quite common for companies based in India and other countries to take advantage of the offshore benefit by offering social media services and software. FollowLiker is one off-shore software that can be blamed for millions of spam likes, comments, follows and DMs sent to Instagram and Twitter users every month. If any social network knew who was responsible for it’s creation, a lawsuit would commence as they regularly have in the past against its competitors.

The NYT concluded the company has likely provided over 200 million followers, which I don’t think is that many in the big scheme of things. FollowLiker generates more than that on a monthly basis. Kim Kardashian has 106 million followers, which I’d bet more than 50 million of those are fake. Some may argue she runs engagement rate that averages a solid 2%. While 2% is an impressive engagement rate at that level of fame, the likes, to a degree would also be purchased. There’s too much money at stake for her to not keep that rate above 1%.

The problem with a lot of Devumi’s competitors, is the purchased followers look fake. The names look fake – the biographies, the profile picture, the location – it usually just doesn’t make sense and the profiles can be spotted easily. They are one of the most unique services on the market, since they’re able to offer American names, with realistic profile photos and the whole bit.

What writers Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Richard Harris and Mark Hansen don’t understand is that these services aren’t just used to benefit others, but also to harm others. Allow me to explain.

Being someone of moderate success at a young age (for those who don’t know me), I’ve gathered a few people who are jealous of that and look for ways to harm that or disrupt my wellbeing. Yesterday I woke up to the notification of hundreds of followers being added to my Instagram account every few minutes. For one thing, that’s sure to annoy me for the duration of the campaign, but also put a real cap on my future engagement rate and not to mention the embarrassment of someone calling me out for buying followers when I really didn’t.

I can block the followers. I can report them, too. However, I don’t have the time to do it for thousands of accounts that can be added at the click of a button. I can turn my profile to private, but that just leads to thousands of follow requests that I don’t have time to individually deny. Instagram does not have the methods in place to handle such an incident, and frankly, they don’t care.

The NYT also drew some far-fetched conclusions on the customers of Devumi. They say there were court records on this but I didn’t see any links to sources, so I’m going to conclude that because NYT discovered that Devumi has accounts that follow celebrities, they believe those celebrities purchased followers from Devumi.

First, understand that companies like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram understand exactly how normal users act when signing up for a social network for the first time. There are specific actions and mistakes that a real person makes when signing up. They click in certain places. They pause on certain pages for certain amounts of time. As soon as someone doesn’t correlate with the data of real users, an account is locked, the IP address is flagged and it causes a lot of issues for companies trying to create fake accounts at scale. It gets complicated quickly.

There’s a page in the Twitter signup process where Twitter asks you if you’d like to follow any famous accounts and it suggests about 20. I dare you to click the little “skip” button and see if your account gets locked. I’m sure it will. So, to properly scale out a mass account registration campaign, you’d need to follow celebrities. Either when you’re prompted at registration, or later on, you mix in your followings with celebrities so it seems natural. Most people follow celebrities, so fake accounts should too.

Another reason why fake accounts would follow celebrities is so that Devumi’s clients cannot get discovered. What if their arsenal of accounts only followed people who paid for it? Well Twitter could wipe all of Devumi’s clients by looking at the followings of 1 fake account, which is what happened to one of my Twitter accounts upon testing this.

So just because an arsenal of fake accounts follows a celebrity, it doesn’t mean that celebrity volunteered to be involved. A company like Devumi would just be using that celebrity, to fool the social networks – and apparently The New York Times reporters too. I’d expect Michael Dell’s name to be removed before he realizes what they’re accusing him of.

What’s amazing is that if they actually control 3.5 million accounts, they’d need 3.5 million unique, low-risk, residential IP addresses to manage those and the only company on Earth known to provide that is of course, Luminati, but that’s a story for another day.

Questions? Comments? Hit up myself or any of the writers on Twitter. Kudos to the writers, it was a fun read. Good work.

The Non-Technical Founder Ebook Download

I’d prefer if you buy my book but I’m happy people are interested and can’t hold it against people who are trying to further themselves in life.

If you’d like to buy my book, it’s available at most book stores for an incredibly discounted rate in both print and digital.

Amazon.comAmazon.caAmazon.co.uk

If you’d like to download it, it will be available immediately on all devices (Apple mobile devices, Apple computers, Android devices, Windows, etc).

If you’d like to torrent it, and you’re that type of person, well…

3 Proven Video Sales Letters

1. GOG.

All around good-guy, Greg OG is a Toronto native. Take a look at his video:

The Real Bruce Wayne Revealed: The Power of Intermittent Fasting (4k)

Watch this video on YouTube.

The script:

My Name is Gregory O’Gallagher and I’m 24 years old. I believe in taking care of myself, in maintaining a lean and chiseled body, and striving each day for self improvement.

Even though I have just woken up, I won’t eat for 8 hours, this increases fat mobilization, boosts mental alertness and has profound health benefits.

To blunt my hunger, I’ll drink sparkling water… 2-3 hours later, I’ll enjoy black coffee, a very powerful appetite suppressant.

Intermittent Fasting has been the most powerful health discovery I have ever made, it has made staying lean and building muscle, effortless..

It’s boosted my work productivity and it’s given me the freedom to eat like a king everyday. I simply feel fantastic. If it happens to be a workout day, I’ll hit the gym hard. I only life three times per week. This maximizes muscular and neuro-recovery and provides the fastest rate of strength gain. I believe in honing your training down to the essential movements that create the perfect physique and then becoming really strong at them. For my key movements, I always perform the heaviest set first, followed by two progressively lighter sets with full rest periods. This style of training allows to come into the gym, stronger each and every session. Since I was 6 years old, I wanted to crack the code to build an amazing body that was strong, powerful and awe-inspiring. I’m 24 and I can honestly say without a shred of doubt, that I’ve cracked that code and since sharing it, it has unlocked the potential in thousands of people that are taking it daily.

My name is Gregory O’Gallagher. It’s time for you to unleash your potential.

There Are Agencies That Believe Backlinks Are Not A Leading Factor

You guys won’t believe some of the stuff I get told. Today I was talking with an SEO agency from St. Petersburg, FL. He told me:

Sorry Josh. You lost me at backlinks still being a major ranking factor.

That’s right, he does not believe backlinks are a factor. Why? Well I talked to another agency who had another response:

Thank you for reaching out to usour SEO team does not rely on backlinks as they are not as useful as they use to be.
Matt Cutts former head of web explained how backlinks will become irrelevant in 2014 [in another video].
Yes, that’s right. There are professionals who actually believe what Matt Cutts says. They just don’t see the bias him in. They believe guest posts no longer work, because he said so. Even the most radical lies, there is someone out there who actually believes it.

StockX banned me for denying an unauthorized transaction

Let me tell you about a customer experience from hell.

StockX is a platform for people to buy and sell limited edition sneakers and other apparel. At 4:43 AM, I received a notification that my PayPal was charged for $364.36 USD.

StockX

I saw this notification about an hour after it came in and immediately emailed their support email explaining this unauthorized charge. I hopped onto the StockX website to find that the email address on file for my account was changed. I immediately clicked to unlink my PayPal from StockX before another charge would occur.

I discovered that someone purchased a Supreme x North Face backpack and had planned to ship it to Paris, France.

After no response for an hour, I decided to log into PayPal to place a hold on the charge, before the money was gone for good. What happens next? They ban me for denying the charge.

Josh,

We will be suspending your account indefinitely due to a chargeback via PayPal. We cannot risk another future chargeback from your account. We do not allow any returns, or exchanges on StockX.

Thanks,
Russ

Finally, a support agent reaches out to my original email, saying they cannot find the fraudulent item that was purchased. I go to login to StockX so I can send over a screenshot about the fraudulent email and the page loads blank, because my account is disabled.

So how exactly did this happen?

  • StockX allows you to easily change the email address on file without confirming the change from the old email. This means receipt emails for fraudulent will avoid your inbox.
  • The PayPal link they have in place must not require a password to re-login via PayPal before purchasing

Figure it out, Russ.

4 Must-Use Email Marketing Tools (and 2 to never-use!)

Even with all the new communication tools that companies are leveraging, such as Slack or Discord, email continues to be the main mode of communication for businesses.I don’t where my company would be, without leveraging some of the advanced tools on the market today.

HubSpot initially got me hooked on read notifications, but their free plan limits you to 200 notifications per month, which just isn’t enough for my business. Their introductory plan starts at $50/month and I feel it has a lot of useless features that are used to justify the price. After deciding I need reliable and affordable read notifications, I spent an entire evening testing and using alternatives.

MixMax

MixMax won me over because they had all the features I wanted and a beautiful interface. Every time someone opens an email of mine, it records when they opened it, from which device and where they were.

My second favorite feature is the email scheduling. Although I’ve been up working since 3:30 am this morning, I used to be a night owl, which means I’d be responding to emails at night. The problem with emailing at night, is the rest of the world is usually sleeping. So if I was writing an email at 1am, I’d schedule it to send at 9:30 AM in the morning.

However, schedule sending is nothing unique to this list. What is unique is the fact that MixMax leverages data to build predictions of when you should target each recipient. In the following screenshot, MixMax concludes that I should send an email to my dad at 1:26 PM. This number changes, based on who you choose as the recepient.

Although this is my software of choice, it’s not perfect and I am always following the competitors for better options.

Some of the things I’d like to see in MixMax:

  • Competitive pricing. I pay $29/month for MixMax. It’s a bit high for just a few features, but I’ve yet to find a competitor with dramatically reduced pricing to make it worth switching.
  • Schedule follow-ups without a template. I’d like to pre-write a follow-up when writing the initial email and have it send in 3 days if the first email doesn’t get a response.

SalesHandy

SalesHandy is also one of the top email marketing solutions available on the market. For any of the good features like a multi-staged mail merge, you’re looking at $20/month.

Similarly to MixMax, SalesHandy also makes you use a template structure for follow-ups, which very well could have been enough to make me switch from MixMax.

I did give SalesHandy an opportunity to perform, but I couldn’t get my contacts imported, without a vague error message. However, I will likely revisit SalesHandy in the future and advise all of you to give it a fair chance.

ReplyUp

For those of you on a budget and looking for automated followups, look no further than ReplyUp. For just $12/month, you can deploy follow up sequences which schedule bulk, personalized emails and track their open rate.

Gmelius

Gmelius is currently playing catch-up but priced at just $15/month with a load of features, CEO Florian Bersier could be sitting on top of one of the most promising email solutions in 2018. In a day and age where multiple followups are everything, the founder reassured me that this and everything I’m looking for is coming in 2018. Out of all the solutions available, this is the platform to watch.

Thanks for your email. Sequences or multiple follow-ups are not part of our solution yet. This is on our road-map and will be released at the start of Q1 2018.

All the best,

Florian
CEO, Founder

Boomerang

Boomerang is the reigning champion. They are the PayPal of payment processing, which is a good and bad thing. They’re well known mainly due to their free version, but the benefits don’t justify spending $15/month given the amazing options on the market. However, if you’re sending from a Gmail address, you can get a handful of Boomerang features for just $5/month whereas the others on the list start at a much higher price.

GMass

I tried GMass a while back and ran into some issues. The software itself runs out of Gmail, whereas competitors like MixMax and SendHandy have their own thought-out user interface to manage campaigns, reports and statistics. The messy labelling system used to report message reads reminds me of a makeshift mail solution I made a few years back.

They have a strong marketing campaign to get the company in front of people like myself, but they really need to rethink the product.


If you’d like me to review your email marketing software, send me an email.

Why I Chose Morgan James

People wonder why I didn’t self-publisher rather than going with Morgan James. Some articles discuss the idea that Morgan James authors are conned into using Morgan James but I think that’s completely false. I chose Morgan James for a few reasons. I’m going to go over the benefits and drawbacks of going with Morgan James rather than CreateSpace, as I did consider this carefully. This is informal review of my experience so far.

The main benefits over CreateSpace:

  • The team is helpful with pushing everything along and educating you on the process. They have the patience to work with first time authors, like myself.
  • They have the ability to place you on the shelves in book stores. I can’t speak for if I get placed, but I’ll keep you updated.
  • They understand internal formatting – something I had no experience with.
  • There’s nothing worse than telling someone you wrote a book, then telling them you don’t have a publisher.
  • They have been used by top marketers like Joel Comm, E. Brian Rose and Russell Brunson, for a reason.
  • They have connections with reputable fulfillment centres that can be sure to integrate with your sales funnel.

The main drawbacks:

  • New authors must pre-purchase books. After you’re published once, you don’t have to do this again.
  • Updating your manuscript costs money.

People also ask me why I went with Morgan James instead of going with a literary agent who could hunt up a big publishing house like Penguin or any of its imprints.

The main benefits:

  • I can sell copies through my own channels at a different price than the stores.
  • When selling through my own channels, I keep a larger percentage of the sales revenue.
  • They can get you to market faster than traditional publishers. My niche is based on technology which is time sensitive.

The main drawbacks:

  • Placement in bookstores is not guaranteed.

I think Morgan James has it’s place in the publishing space. It may not be right for everyone, but it was right for me. So far the first 6 months has been a good experience and I hope I can say the same 6 months from now. Talk soon.

My Horror Experience With GetResponse

1. Their registration box doesn’t work

So first, when registering on the registration page, there are several textboxes to fill out. However, the textbox wouldn’t take any of my emails. My personal joshmacodnald.net email, nor my gmail or hotmail addresses. It just said the email was invalid, when it clearly wasn’t. Frustrating.

2. Their website is full of errors.

So I click to email them, guess what? 502 error. I got back, click the button again, okay the email form appears now. So I send an email.

3. Their email is slower than they let on.

After submitting an email to the sales department to explain you can’t sign up (a HUGE CRO issue, probably costing them 5-10% loss in sales), you’re told they’ll be in touch “very shortly” and by that, I’d expect an email within an hour. No, of course they didn’t follow up within an hour.

 

4. Their phone number is out of service

As I said, an hour goes by without a response so I just try to submit the form. It gives me an error message, with a phone number. Awesome! I’ll hop on call and get this sorted right away I imagine. NOPE. After calling, a pre-recorded message says the number is no longer in service. Wonderful.

5. The live chat support agent was misinformed.

So I search Google and find a live chat option, cool. I’m connect with someone right away who says the issue is I must have my DNS records set for my domain. Why? He nor I have a clue. I run A records for my VPS and I run MX records to connect to my mail server. His answer doesn’t explain why I can’t register with my hotmail or gmail.

Also, why does the email of the admin need to have this? It’s not like this is the email we’ll be sending emails from anyways. This is more so my personal email for billing, support etc. I don’t want emails to be sending from this. But with GetResponse, yes, they try to imply that you’ll be sending from your personal email.

Whatever, so I exit out of that live chat, annoyed. I go to the homepage, there is a single form that asks for an email address and a password to get started. I enter in the EXACT SAME details as before, and it works. So one registration form works, and the other does not. Talk about lost sales.

6. The editor is super laggy and disfunctional

So I finally get into the control panel. Cool. I setup an email, and the HTML editor delays every input for 1 second. Frustrating! So you don’t spot a type until you’re 5 words along and have to click back or wait for the arrows to catch up, etc. What a mess. So I wrote the email text in my local editor, then just pasted it into GetResponse.

Would you believe me if I said the backspace button stopped working within the editor and I had to refresh the entire page?

7. Their docs are out of date

So now it’s time to integrate with my existing solution. I found someone made an extension for Contact Form 7 on WordPress and GetResponse (no idea why GetResponse wouldn’t code this for their own customers – it sure would be nice), so I download the extension and it asks for an API key. Okay, so I go into my dashboard, I can’t find it in the options. So I search on Google, and find this article. I try to implement what it says – outdated. The pages and settings it explains are no longer part of the current UI.

8. Their live chat is super laggy

So I go back to live chat to clarify how to find the API key. The worst part? It lags about 20 seconds when you try to type something in, and that is sometimes not quick enough before the live agent tries to cancel the conversation before a response can be fired off.

9. They send emails you can’t unsubscribe from

Here’s another one for you: you’re basically signed up for endless emails from them. No unsubscribe link.

End rant. So, does anyone have an autoresponder recommendation?

Bisou – Free Luxury WordPress Theme

It’s been on my agenda to master PHP and the WordPress Codex to build a WordPress theme. Last week I sat down and decided to knock out a bad-ass free WordPress theme. The first thing I realized was how many requirements WordPress forces on you. For example, on themes built for business, I really hate comments. Comments are unprofessional and generally cause problems. If you don’t acknowledge comments, customers will think you’re ignore them. If you do acknowledge them, you have to have a secretary check them daily. Besides, the comment form boxes are always unattractive, so I usually have to edit the theme to get rid of them for all of my clients.

Now for the theme. It’s pretty lightweight – under 2 MB in size before WordPress made me add a few things to take it over 3 MB. The theme features a header image across the top which is the bulk of the size, which you can replace with your own image.By changing the header image, you can completely change the entire niche of the theme, to make it applicable for almost any sort of luxury theme.

The theme features a pinstripe background which gives the theme a luxury feel, making it applicable for businesses such as modelling and talent agencies, or even for wineries, jewellers, and bespoke tailors.

The theme works great, both with the front page as a static page, or as a blog post.

Lastly, I named it Bisou for the French word kiss.

Download the theme here:

Here’s what the theme looks like when the homepage is setup to be a blog.

Free Modelling WordPress Theme

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