Twitter just began rolling out a new search infrastructure that will allow anyone to search every tweet ever published publicly. Picture: Moeletsi Mabe

London - Forget winning friends and influencing people, why not buy them instead?

Nowadays you’re nobody unless you’ve legions of followers on Twitter. Some politicians and celebrities have even taken to purchasing fake ones.

Countless “buy more followers” websites have sprung up where more modest Twitterers can purchase 500 followers for £13 (about R200), while those truly seeking to aggrandise themselves can buy 200,000 fans for £79.

Mervyn Barrett, candidate for the post of Lincolnshire police commissioner, had just 330 followers in June. Now he boasts more than 16,000.

Most are fake, but Mr Barrett said he had no part in buying them and a source blamed “an over-enthusiastic supporter”.

Last year, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was accused of buying 80 percent of his followers. You may be able to buy online popularity, but mercifully, you still can’t buy votes. - Daily Mail