Stage 1 (of a social media startup/platform):
The social media platform founders go to their next investor meeting boasting about all of the new accounts on their platform. They get more funding and everyone is happy.
Real people begin to use the platform. The startup team that created the platform engages with the new human users, but also showcases the growth hackers as influencers on the platform. (Ex: if John Pineapple was invited to participate in stage 1, he will be a featured platform influencer, but all of the fake accounts that he created, will not be). The growth hackers continue to use the fake accounts to make themselves seem hella important on the new niche platform.
The platform gets traction and passes critical mass. There are now more humans than bots and 100s of new users are joining everyday. The platform has “gone viral”. People who are less experienced with using bots covertly start spamming the heck out of human users on the site.
The human users get annoyed with the bot users and the platform’s founders have to determine if it’s better for public perception and key stake holders, if they shut down the bots (hurting the people who first helped to grow their platform) OR ignore the humans who are annoyed with the bots. Usually they shut down the bots that are newest to the site, but let the bots created in stage 1 stay on.
This is why Twitter had a ton of people loose followers a few weeks ago. But this was not the first time it happened. It is the circle of life in the startup world of social platforms.