Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Look At How Many Fake Followers The Most Popular People On Twitter Have
August 18, 2012 5:36 AM   Subscribe

We decided to have a little fun with the app and see how many fake followers vocal celebrities on Twitter have. "Earlier this week we discovered Status Group's new app that allows users to find out how many fake Twitter followers you and your friends have. We decided to have a little fun with the app and see how many fake followers vocal celebrities on Twitter have."
posted by adrianspiegel (40 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
How does it work?
We take a sample of your follower data. Up to 500 records depending on how 'popular' you are and assess them against a number of simple spam criteria.
On a very basic level spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets. But in contrast they tend to follow a lot of other accounts.


Science!!
posted by fullerine at 5:42 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about people who have a twitter account solely because they crave the pearls of Gaga, Kutcher, Bieber, et.al. wisdom?

According to this 'science' such people, the same ones that the celeb-peddling media are making a fortune off, don't exist.
posted by savvo at 5:58 AM on August 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Twitter followers: the equivalent of "Hits" to generation Y's.
posted by smoke at 5:59 AM on August 18, 2012


You know you can use things like Twitter follower numbers when pitching things or shopping projects around, I always wondered if it was assumed that the numbers are inflated or if there was some bubble forming.
posted by The Whelk at 6:14 AM on August 18, 2012


Funny, I was just working on an app to determine how many of a MeFi user's spouses are fake!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:15 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about people who have a twitter account solely because they crave the pearls of Gaga, Kutcher, Bieber, et.al. wisdom?

My guess is that lurkers don't follow more than, say, 100-200 accounts—there are only so many A-list, B-list, M-list celebrities a single person would care about (right? right? please tell me this is so). Spam accounts, by contrast, follow thousands or tens of thousands of people.
posted by chrominance at 6:22 AM on August 18, 2012


What exactly is a 'vocal celebrity'?
posted by item at 6:34 AM on August 18, 2012


What exactly is a 'vocal celebrity'?
posted by item


A celeb with a lot to say or one who tweets frequently?
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:58 AM on August 18, 2012


Kim Kardashian has 15,841,816 and isn't 32% of those aren't real.

Fixed.
posted by Fizz at 7:18 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Most of my followers are spammers too, but I'm not sure what to do about it other than blocking all of them, which takes too much time.
posted by goethean at 7:41 AM on August 18, 2012


While this is some cool insight into "fake" followers, I'd really love to know more about their spam criteria beyond the overly simplistic explanation given above. Right on that linked page it says that this is "accurate" for people who have up to 10K followers, and this little experiment looks like it's mostly targeting accounts with many more followers than that. Given the small sample size (500 followers), and without any insight as to how those 500 are determined (I know nothing about Twitter's API), I'm not sure how consistent these results are.

I'm not willing to link my Twitter account to anything I don't trust, but I'd love to see how much the actual numbers vary if anyone installs this app and runs it against the listed accounts again.
posted by antonymous at 7:48 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have they tried it on Romney yet?
posted by futz at 8:02 AM on August 18, 2012


I'm in the supposedly-accurate under-10K zone (a little over 7K followers) and they say mine are 80% good, 4% fake (the rest inactive). Given my assumptions about my followers, I think that "good" count seems suspiciously high, even.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:12 AM on August 18, 2012


My faker score is really low because I relentlessly root them out. Now I'm going to go through my list and find that 2%.
posted by desjardins at 8:18 AM on August 18, 2012


I check new followers frequently enough that blocking the ones that look like spammers is easy. I block maybe 1 or 2 a week. Such accounts are usually obvious due to a combo of following to follower ratio, tweet count, content of tweets, twitter handle, picture and description. The ones that have "love-cock-sucking.info" as their webpage are so obvious I don't understand why twitter allows them.

Anyway, this tool gave me 0% fake followers. So take that as you will but their methods don't seem horribly unsound, at least for people like me with low follower count. Of course the link is for celebs with hundreds of thousands of followers do I'm not sure how their method works for that. It's not like twitter provides a statistically correct "random follower" function that you could sample to get a big enough sample size for a significant result. Or does it???
posted by R343L at 8:23 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have they tried it on Romney yet?

Yes, read the link, maybe ?
posted by Pendragon at 8:57 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Checked myself out... apparently both my followers are real people.

I can't immediately see how to run a check on other people's followers. How did Business Insider do it using the Status People's tools?
posted by fredludd at 9:10 AM on August 18, 2012


Enter the username under "Find out how many fake followers your friends have" and click search (you do not have to be friends with the person).
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on August 18, 2012


I'm more interested in the fact that about 1/3rd of most celebrities' followers are inactive accounts. Why aren't those subtracted when the account is deactivated?

What kind of system lets you still show up as a follower when you have closed your account? That's crazy!
posted by ErikaB at 9:34 AM on August 18, 2012


I'm more interested in the fact that about 1/3rd of most celebrities' followers are inactive accounts. Why aren't those subtracted when the account is deactivated?

What kind of system lets you still show up as a follower when you have closed your account? That's crazy!
posted by ErikaB


Do they define "inactive" anywhere? I didn't see it, but maybe didn't look very hard, either. Perhaps those inactive accounts are those who don't seem to fit the fake criteria, yet haven't had a tweet in say, six months.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:42 AM on August 18, 2012


I'm pretty sure 'inactive' in Twitter terms means the user hasn't tweeted in, yea, six months or a year or whatever. The accounts are still there in the system, though. Actually, these results seem to show that 30+% of Twitter's users in general are 'inactive'.
posted by Bartonius at 10:14 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few months ago I bought a thousand followers for someone as a birthday present. This wasn't an account that he used much (5 tweets in the last year), but it was a quick way to assemble a surprise party.

The service actually provided more than two thousand followers, although I see that the number has now slipped back to less than 1700. The Status People's tool identifies his followers as 65% Fake, 34% Inactive, 1% Real. I'm willing to bet that the 1% is an overestimation.
posted by fredludd at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


#tcot fake/inactive/good ... # followers
* Michelle Malkin: 35/40/25 ... 321,348
Ed Morrisey : 9/28/63 ... 24,519
Meghan McCain : 10/18/72 ... 176,191
Karl Rove : 26/41/33 ... 372,870
Lisa De Pasquale : 2/11/87 ... 4,512
* Rush Limbaugh : 31/40/29 ... 246,938
Sarah Palin : 25/43/32 ... 818,399
Glenn Beck : 23/46/31 ... 509,208
Newt Gingrich : 23/44/33 ... 1,466,377
Sean Hannity : 26/45/29 ... 412,785
John Boehner : 11/45/44 ... 192,435
MicheleBachmann : 14/41/45 ... 144,434
Matt Drudge : 14/36/50 ... 116,300
FreedomWorks : 11/35/54 ... 65,477

* Have more fake followers than real ones.
posted by crunchland at 10:34 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to use the app but it wants me to okay them updating my status for me. Why on earth would you allow a stranger to do that?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2012


I have a pretty decent sized following, and I was expecting that a chunk of them would be spammers and fakes, but according to this it's only about 2 percent. Maybe because every time I get spammed, I block the person and report them.

Still, I can't believe that Twitter is that good at keeping spammers off. So either this is broken on spammers just don't like my particular brand of Tweet.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2012


2% for me as well. Much lower than I would have expected, although I am pretty diligent about blocking.
posted by brundlefly at 11:35 AM on August 18, 2012


#tcot fake/inactive/good ... # followers

* Barack Obama : 41/35/24 ... 18,600,769
posted by gyc at 11:36 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


* Have more fake followers than real ones.

With Newt, there were accusations that he simply bought his Twitter followers. There are services that set up thousands of fake accounts and, if you pay them, will have all the fake accounts follow you. I have never really understood this, as the only value to be found there is if Twitter counts is a popularity contest, and you're gaming that contest. But to what end?

Either they thought they were buying actual followers, and are just that naive about how this works (possible; it's like businesses who innocently hire SEO spammers), or they thought fake followers would somehow magically transmogrify into real followers because people would see how popular you are, which is a bit like showing up at a party with three inflatable friends in the hopes that other people will come over to talk to you.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


There were well founded accusations that Romney bought a large block of Twitter followers. This "Status People" service does not quite pass the smell test for me (even though I have a slim 3% fake, 14% inactive, 83% good rating out of my 796 followers).

BTW/don't follow @oneswellfoop (5%/8%/87% out of 354) anymore, I consolidated my twitter presence at @someothercraig - and don't follow that unless you want to see lots of #funnyhashtag tweets, that's pretty much the only thing I find it good for anymore.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:54 AM on August 18, 2012


If you want a slightly more useful analysis of the opposite - people you follow on Twitter - I recommend Twit Cleaner. It tells you which of your followers are inactive, which only tweet links (which is spammy), and which people never reply to anyone etc. I use it every three months or so to trim the list of people I follow.

It is granular; it will tell you @MeFi only tweets links, for example, and you can use your own brain to figure out that's okay. It will also tell you I'm a snob, which I am.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:17 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear *I* have followers on Twitter, that are clearly not the primary accounts of real human beings. Probably the majority of my so-called followers are fake. Anyone who has read a post of mine here in MeFi will understand why this is the case.
posted by Xoebe at 1:55 PM on August 18, 2012


I have a twitter account to follow people I'm interested in, but I'm too much of a nut about privacy to ever tweet anything. Still, I'm an actual person reading tweets, not a bot. I think this app would discount me as "inactive."
posted by onlyconnect at 1:56 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the UK it was used as part of a false flag operation, most likely by the people who developed the software in the first place.

Basically, it only uses your most recent followers when calculating the "fakeness percentage" and because - as freddludd pointed out upthread - anybody can buy followers for anybody else, it's possible to make anybody seem like they've been exaggerating their popularity just by buying them followers and then immediately publicising their "fakeness percentage".

(Louise Mensch's followers are traditionally not spambots, but grumpy left wingers who want to retweet the ridiculous things she says with sarcastic commentary attached. America, you are welcome to her.)

And Bunny Ultramod the point of buying followers is not to parlay fake twitter popularity into actual twitter popularity so much as to provide an (inflated) measure of ones own popularity which can be used outside of twitter to further one's career, either as a performer who would have good box office draw or a politician with the support of the people or whatever.

It's tawdry and cynical, but so are politics and showbiz...
posted by the latin mouse at 3:53 PM on August 18, 2012


Twitter followers get you at least a couple of things:

1. The ability to follow more than X other accounts (there's a soft ceiling at 2,000 accounts - you have to have more than 2,000 followers to follow more than 2,000 accounts.) (*)
2. More visibility in terms of rankings by # of followers.

(*) This can actually be annoying - I wanted to have my Toastmasters club account's account follow every other TM account (international, national, regional, local - members, clubs, areas, districts, etc.,) all the local accounts who tweet about events, and a bunch of people who talk about public speaking and leadership and such. That leaves very little room for following anyone who follows the account (which is a standard bit of Twitter etiquette.)

I really hate the idea of unfollowing other club accounts, because one of my responsibilities is to try and convince other clubs to use social media at all, and I'm often the only one following the folks who haven't figured out how to use Twitter. I hate being Miss Gave Up On Your Club Ever Saying Anything.

(I will probably unfollow the American clubs that haven't ever figured out how to post anything before I unfollow the Arabic-speaking Gavel Club in Kuwait. I'm extremely proud of the other-language clubs I've managed to collect so far; several are really good at social media.)
posted by SMPA at 5:44 PM on August 18, 2012


Only 1% of my followers are fake, though another 14% are inactive.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:24 PM on August 18, 2012


That leaves very little room for following anyone who follows the account (which is a standard bit of Twitter etiquette.)

Not really. You're not tweeting as a person, you're tweeting as a brand: Toastmasters of Wherever. It's entirely appropriate that you follow only other Toastmaster accounts and not follow back every follower you gain.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:27 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought only kids did the "follow back" thing. I only follow people if I'm interested in what they have to say, not because they followed me.
posted by desjardins at 8:34 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


What DarlingBri and desjardins said. Following a shit-ton of accounts marks you out (with very few exceptions) as being vain, a noob or a spammer.

Think about it, why would anybody follow more accounts than they could possibly be reading? Either they don't care about the people and are just hoping for some reciprocal follows to boost their own numbers (and not their real readership, just the numbers, since the kids from #teamfollowback don't read the people they follow either). 

Or they're following people to create a directory of sorts. Which is harmless enough, but indicates they haven't bothered to read the faq or learn how the list function works.

Finally they might be an advertiser who has no intention of engaging with people honestly but simply wants as many reciprocal follows as possible so that they can spam people via Direct Message.

For the record, the exceptions I mentioned earlier are usually automated accounts which make use of Direct Messages to function. Also some people use lists to read people rather than the regular follow function.

Generally though overfollowing isn't a positive thing for your account's image.
posted by the latin mouse at 5:19 AM on August 19, 2012


Think about it, why would anybody follow more accounts than they could possibly be reading? Either they don't care about the people and are just hoping for some reciprocal follows to boost their own numbers (and not their real readership, just the numbers, since the kids from #teamfollowback don't read the people they follow either). 

Or they're following people to create a directory of sorts. Which is harmless enough, but indicates they haven't bothered to read the faq or learn how the list function works.


There's a middle ground here. I can't read all the tweets; I follow too many people. But when I do read my twitter stream, I am interested in all of it.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2012


showing up at a party with three inflatable friends in the hopes that other people will come over to talk to you.

If someone showed up with three inflatable people at a party I would definitely go over and talk to them.
posted by batonthefueltank at 4:18 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older The webcomic A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is...  |  "Reagan's president elect...."... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments