Social Media Analysis Supports Claim that Newt Gingrich Bought Twitter Followers

This in earlier today from social media firm PeekYou, whose PR people definite know how to get on top of a breaking story: the news that Newt may have fudged his Twitter following just a tad. If you’ve missed out on the fun so far, Gawker published a story yesterday in which a former Gingrich’s campaign staffer claimed that the Newtster had purchased most of his much-touted million-plus Twitter fanbase:

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…About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various “follow agencies,” another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves.

What PeekYou adds is this:

…the team at PeekYou, a New York based search company, identified the large gap between perception and reality last week during a testing session for its soon-to-launch PeekAnalytics. The discovery was made while compiling a ‘Followers Report’ on all of the GOP 2012 candidates.

The Consumer Ratio measures the percentage of a Twitter audience that is identified as a “consumer” or “voter” in Newt’s case, vs business, private/anonymous and spam accounts. The average range sits anywhere between 30-60% human depending on this type of account. Newt’s was 8% — the lowest the team had ever seen by 5%.

“We have seen some pretty low ‘Consumer Ratios’ in our testing, but Newt Gingrich’s was the lowest we had ever seen. At first, we actually thought it might have been a bug on our side, but a quick manual look at the data showed our analysis was true,” said Michael Hussey, CEO and founder of PeekYou.

“Once the news broke yesterday the team went back to look at the report. The data supported that out of Newt’s 1.3 million followers only 8 percent (2 percent less than claimed in recent media reports), are identified by our algorithm as humans, meaning Newt’s follower count is really closer to 106,055,” continued Hussey.

Newt, my friend, when will you learn? First you pay 800 grand for that crappy website, then you turn around and buy your social media “support.” Too bad you’re not likely to be in the race much longer at this rate, ’cause you’ve sure been a whole lot more fun to have around than Mitt.

Update: I’d missed Dave Weigel’s earlier pouring-of-cold-water on the idea that Newt bought his following, which is based on the fact that Gingrich has built his up his Twitter list over a period of time, including long before his campaign launched. But that still doesn’t rule out the possibility that the bulk of his followers are fake — he could have been paying for them for many months before he hired campaign staff. After all, somebody blew enough smoke up his @ss that he paid what did for a Drupal site and CRM — who knows what a social media PR firm might have been able to sell him on.


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • Does this analysis take into account Gingrich was on the suggested user list for a long time?

    I expect anyone on the suggested users list to have a whole bunch of infrequent Twitter users (i.e. sign up and never sign in again) as followers.

  • I dunno, Stan — I could see that happening, but to this extent? It kind of staggers belief that 90%+ of a following would end up being users occasional enough to register as robots.

    Of course, I’m not with this PeekYou company and haven’t seen their algorithms, so I can’t testify personally.

  • I’d love to know what the methodology is for determining what is a robot.

    Also, keep in mind that I would expect bots signing up for accounts might also follow the suggested user list.

    Again, I have no doubt that Gingrich’s follower count is highly inflated, but I don’t necessarily believe the story that 90% of the accounts were purchased.