Cape Town - They cannot buy love, but with just a few clicks of the mouse, tweeters and Facebookers can now locally buy followers and “friends” to enhance their online profile.

From politicians to celebrities, South Africans are lining up in droves for the service, hoping to boost their online reputation, says Mohammed Cassim, the owner and founder of a Joburg-based business.

“The demand for the platform and service is growing daily, internationally and locally,” he said.

Through Cassim’s Onlinecart website social networking site users can buy blocks of followers or friends – from as little as R250 for a set of 1 000 Twitter followers, or R3 500 for 10 000 Facebook friends.

The aim is to boost online credibility and standing.

“When another user sees an image that appears popular, they are much more likely to give the image a thorough look and engage with that audience,” said Cassim.

He said clients included political parties, companies looking to boost their business profiles, DJs and students.

“We have already sold our biggest ‘follower’ package of 100 000 Twitter followers, with some customers repeating this order more than twice. Our most expensive item is one million YouTube views. We have sold a few of these already,” he said.

The service has been criticised as selling manufactured profiles.

But Cassim answered the question of who the thousands of followers were by saying each follower profile sold was real as it was legal for one user to have more than one profile on a different e-mail address.

The company created these multiple accounts. The time frame that followers stayed with you would depend on your content and how you interacted to retain your followers, Cassim said.

He acknowledged the service had been controversial.

“We have received some criticism from some social media gurus and certain bloggers. Our response is that we don’t sell influence, we boost your profile so that you look more attractive to your target market.”

He acknowledged that it was problematic when bloggers, for example, approached businesses for sponsorship using the number of followers as leverage.

“At the end of the day it’s still up to corporates not to measure a person’s credentials by the number of followers they have, but it should be determined by a person’s content,” he said. - Cape Argus