Mitt Romney – Are all twitter followers equal?

Adrian Chen at Gawker sent me a link to 140elect, with a ”suspicious looking” graph of Twitter followers for US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The last ~20-30 hours, he’s gained more than 100.000 new followers. Most of them are very ”suspicious looking”.

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Apparently, his follower count is steadily rising very quickly, and many of the followers have tell-tale signs of being ”purchased accounts”. Low amount of tweets, generic (random) profile image, and a random text description.

Since Twitter has become a very important part of social media, it’s becoming more and more important to be present there, and, of course, to have ”lots of followers” to show that you have people interested in you. Showing that you are a influencer. There are places where you can purchase ”followers”. Either from hacked accounts, or from ”bots”, just non-user accounts created in an attempt to ”look real”.

Using the Twitter API, I fetched about 10.000 of Mitt Romney’s last followers, and composed some quick statistics regarding them.

Total followers (when writing this post): 983120
Total followers checked: 9899
Followers that never tweeted: 903 (9%)
Followers with 0 followers of their own: 1509 (15%)

I also checked the last tweet that the followers sent, and a bunch of the bots sent the same tweets (as expected):

6 of Mr. Romney’s followers had the last tweet: ”Happy Thanksgiving!”, and all of them sent it a couple of days ago (all were in July 2012).
Another 4 had ”Happy Thanksgiving, time to start making the stuffing and the salad” as their last tweets.. someone needs to teach those bots how to set the clock!

4 of Mr. Romney’s followers had the last tweet: ”thaiz bomba bomba ex havaianos tonzão teve um casa com uma garota de atibaia interior de são paulo”. Googling for that phrase shows up a bunch of other bot accounts, and a few ”trending tweets” sites.

Here is a list of all tweets where two or more people has the same last tweet: http://pastebin.com/9duUeQF6

Update: I also checked the creation date of the twitter users.

937 users (9.5%) were created on December 13th, 2011, and another 727 (7.3%) were created yesterday (July 21st, 2012). Putting together the last three days (July 19th-July 21st) adds up to an amazing 1623 users. So, 16.4% of the analyzed twitter followers were created during the last three days.

144 of the followers created on May 27th, 2012
161 of the followers created on May 28th, 2012
167 of the followers created on May 16th 2012
203 of the followers created on May 18th 2012
222 of the followers created on May 26th 2012
227 of the followers created on May 17th 2012
312 of the followers created on July 20th 2012
392 of the followers created on December 15th 2011
528 of the followers created on December 14th 2011
584 of the followers created on July 19th 2012
727 of the followers created on July 21st 2012
937 of the followers created on December 13th 2011

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Update: Zach Green suggested looking at users with less than 5 tweets and followers. So here are those results:

67% (6654) of the followers had sent less than 5 tweets of their own. 28% (2841) had both less than 5 tweets, and less than 5 followers.

To me, it sure looks like SOMEONE purchased followers for Mr. Romney. Now, if that was someone trying to help, or someone trying to discredit him, I don’t know.

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