So… after Real, Serious, I-Am-So-Not-Doing-This-Just-for-the-Grift presidential candidate Newton Leroy Gingrich complained that the press was not taking him seriously even though “I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined”, real serious journalist John Cook at Gawker wrote:
…[I]f Newt is winning the Twitter primary, it’s because of voter fraud. A former staffer tells us that his campaign hired a firm to boost his follower count, in part by creating fake accounts en masse:
“Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them. As you might guess, Newt is most decidedly one of the people to which these agencies cater…”
That’s quite a different explanation for Gingrich’s Twitter popularity than the one offered by this Politico story on the subject: “[I]t’s his personal touch: He tweets and manages his Twitter feed himself, his campaign confirmed to POLITICO. All told, he has tweeted 2,611 times in the 29 months since he joined the site.”
If my math is correct, that works out to just over 81 tweets per month, which doesn’t seem all that ambitious; from outside the Twitterverse, it looks like ABL or John Cole must send that many on a average day, and they have real jobs to attend to. Perhaps the Politico reporter had ‘tongue so firmly in cheek as to protrude from the vulgar bodily orifice’?
Anyway, many people did not like the implication that Newt was buying
friends followers, or possibly that some of their own Twit-fans might not love them for their highly compressed wit and insight. Sufficient noise was raised, in fact, that within a day Cook was able to post an “Update: Only 92% of Newt Gingrich’s Twitter Followers Are Fake“:
… Short of direct evidence of follower-buying, there’s not much more we can do to corroborate our source’s claims aside from actually pore over all those 1.3 million followers looking for fakes.
As it turns out, the search firm PeekYou has done just that! And it doesn’t look good for Gingrich. In a happy accident, PeekYou—which is sort of a people-oriented search index—has for the past year been conducting research on how to measure the quality of Twitter audiences, a project that included looking at politicians’ Twitter followers. And by their count, just 8% of Newt Gingrich’s followers are real people…
Mackey said PeekYou actually scrubbed each and every one of Gingrich’s 1.3 million followers, using 23 criteria—including name, location, and inbound and outbound links in their feed—to determine whether they were real people. “We usually find out that real people have real web identities,” he says. For the vast majority of Gingrich’s followers, that wasn’t true. They were either business accounts, private accounts, anonymous accounts that had only a user ID and no other discernible connection to the internet, or spambots. The average Twitter user, Mackey says, has a follower count that consists of anywhere from 35% to 60% real people. At 8%, Gingrich’s is the lowest PeekYou has ever seen. “When was saw it, we actually had our quality assurance people go over the numbers for two days to doublecheck,” he says.
Click through and read the stories for much more risible, and perhaps thought-provoking, detail. Of course, the shame of being exposed as a buyer of fake followers will not deter Newt Gingrich, the Baby Boomer Richard Nixon, from continuing his latest
grift campaign. But, really — you go to all the trouble of producing all those impulse-driven thought-haiku in a steady stream, and somewhere between a third and three-fifths of your readership is imaginary? Sheesh, I thought blogging was the perfect example of shouting down a well…