Was it an accidental search for fellow fans of an eighties rock band or the nefarious hacking of a hidden Twitter application command that bankrupted celebrities like Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and Perez Hilton (@perezhilton) of millions of followers today?
According to Gizmodo, a regular Twitter customer in Turkey claims to have accidentally stumbled upon a way to force any Twitter user to follow you. By simply entering the word "accept" with a username - for instance, type [accept oprah] into the Twitter status field - anybody could get themselves followed by people like Oprah, Jack Welch or even Kim Kardashian. The action is similar to adding "RT" before a username to repost a user's status.
The value of a follower is a hotly contested topic in marketing circles these days, and having celebrities follow you is a sign that a fan may have gotten the attention of a star. While the bug was being investigated by Twitter, followers were set to zero, and the notorious celebrity leaders of the Twitter pack had to laugh off their sudden unpopularity. Wrote @bodhielfman "I have more followers than @aplusk." In addition, marketers who measure the success of their campaigns by fans and followers had to do a day of client-side vamping to manage the fall in metrics that normally would be considered catastrophic by most brands measuring the reputation and reach of their social media spend.
Later in the afternoon, as following counts were returned to users profiles, there was still damage control to be done, since it appeared forced followers were still showing up in users' lists that they hadn't really joined. @ConanOBrien posted the disclaimer, "if it ever says I have been following more than one person, I have been hacked. I'm a completely monogamous Twitterrer - I only follow Sarah Killen."
If only Tiger had tweeted instead of sending SMS, he could have said someone just co-opted his account.