The day I was trending on Twitter!

Will the real Dan Purvis, please stand up!

Yes, there I was trending on Twitter for the first and probably only time in my life – people were tweeting me, putting messages on my Facebook wall, texting me…a lot of new tweeps were following me too!

At the time (30th July 2012), I was watching #TeamGB’s male gymnastics compete in the men’s Team Final during the #London2012 #Olympics – a key member of our successful and incredible men’s team was…Dan Purvis!

Sadly I’m not a ripped, ginger elite gymnast – both my profile pic and bio would back that up!  My follower count jumped up a little over the following 24-48hrs as people searched for “Dan Purvis”, saw my profile come up first, and followed.  Others simply assumed his twitter handle was @DanPurvis and tweeted their congratulations to him and his team-mates.

It would have been wrong to take advantage of this (although tempting!) and it surely would have backfired as well.  Instead, I only replied to my mates who had tweeted me in jest.  But this mistaken identity got me thinking.

Fake or not?!

Surely it’s common sense to quickly check a twitter handle to make sure you’ve got the right person?  Maybe check their timeline to see what they’re tweeting?  Have a look at the picture??

Ok, this example isn’t a big deal – it’s innocent and harmless.  But think of the serious brand problems businesses and celebrities face.

The list of spoof accounts out there is endless, but here are two good examples the huge impact mistaken identity can have:

  • BP’s oil crisis in April 2010 is still an excellent example.  So slow was BP’s response that by the time they had started publicly dealing with the issue, the fake BP account (@BPGlobalPR) had amassed 5 times more than the real one.  It now has over 150,000 followers compared to @BP_America’s 43,000.
  • Does he bring it on himself?

    Controversial England cricket international, Kevin Pietersen, is a brilliant talent but incredibly opinionated and forthright.  A fake twitter account was set up posting parody thoughts as if from KP himself.  Although clearly fake, @KevPietersen24 rapidly gained popularity as KP’s reputation plummeted.  It seems the fake handle has since been shut down.

Through accounts that are parody or outright negative, reputation is often at the most risk for brands on all forms of social media.  But sadly it also seems that some celebrities and politicians are gaming the system by using fake twitter accounts to boost their profile – where will it end?

My temporary “fame” on Twitter lasted about 48 hours – pretty quickly my new male gymnast loving followers worked it out and unfollowed me.  I hope they followed Team GB’s Dan Purvis (@PurvisDanny) instead!

Have you experienced this kind of mistaken identity?  I’d love to hear from you, so please comment and share this post.

Be careful out there…!

About Dan Purvis

PR, comms, digital / social media specialist and advisor.

While consistently balancing the need for sustainable, impactful campaigns that incorporate PR, social/digital media and external communications in the mix, I ensure that game-changing strategies are aligned to commercial goals and objectives. Passionate about social media, the value of digital properties and PR, I have a proven track record of successfully leading various PR-specific and multi-discipline marketing campaigns. Internal comms, crisis comms and stakeholder liaison is also a core strength of mine.


  1. Mr. Purvis, I enjoyed the read.
    Interesting examples.
    Another interesting example:
    I met a guy who bought a FB Page with 80,000 followers for $500 bucks.
    It was a page that was suppose to be about a fast food restaurant, but clearly run by someone who was “riding their fame”.
    Interesting thing was, when people eventually realized it was not the “real” food chain some got a bit made but others commented “Who cares who runs this page, its funny and more amusing then the real deal”
    So, the imposter made $500 and my contact bought the ability to market to 80,000 people. That is a very cheap Cost Per Click…

    • Hey Jonas! Thanks for your comment…that’s a cracking anecdote and goes to show that a lot social media analysis boils down to relevancy and context. Hence some people not caring and even preferring the fake!
      And yes, that’s awesome ROI…

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