A Social Media Analytics firm recently reported that nearly 50% of Justin Bieber followers on Twitter–were fake. This meant that nearly 18 million followers on Justins twitter account either belonged to no ‘real’ person or belonged to a spam account–and that dear readers is a lot of spam!
That’s like a newspaper saying its circulation was 100,000 a day, but it was only being read by 50,000 people.
Now of course, even if the first 18 million twitter followers were nothing more than spam bots, there’s still another 18 million ‘real’ followers that Justin has–and not many people have even 1 million twitter followers, let alone 18 million, so Justin still has twitter-cred.
However, that does beg the question–how many followers of our Prime Ministers twitter account–were real? For the uninitiated, the Prime Minister tweets at @NajibRazak and has nearly 1.4 Million followers, about 10 times less than Justin Bieber–but nearly 7 times more than his political rival Anwar Ibrahim (who has ‘just’ over 250 thousand followers).
So were these followers real?
The answer isn’t so straight forward, first we have to define ‘real’. It’s hard to tell, but Social Baker uses a variety of metrics to determine if an account is ‘real’ or not. The metrics include the number of followers, the number of tweets, and the validity of those tweets–however, any smart enough spam bot-net could easily fake the numbers to appear ‘real’ to the Social Baker methodology–but for now they’re the only methodology we have.
So a quick logon to social bakers reveals…..drum roll please:
Najib actually performs worse then Justin, garnering a mere 44% ‘good’ followers. The remaining 56% were deemed either fake or empty–basically these accounts probably didn’t belong to ‘real’ people.
However, that’s just one part of the coin, I wanted to find out what kind of numbers Anwar Ibrahim had, and oh boy was I surprised:
Anwar does remarkably better than Najib, scoring 20% more on the ‘good’ followers. However, it still meant that 35% of his followers were either fake or empty. Which was a high number but still nowhere near the numbers Najib was posting.
However, I didn’t stop there, I wanted to see how many ‘fake’ twitter followers one could expect from a ‘normal’ person. In most cases people can’t control who follows them on twitter, and there’s nothing to stop spam bots from following you. So as a benchmark, I tried the Social Bakers test on myself, and the result were quite impressive (if I do say so myself):
So for a regular Tech Blogger with no political affliations, I do remarkably better than both our politicians. More than 75% of my followers were ‘good’ with just under a quarter of them deemed fake or inactive.
Using myself as a benchmark proved a useful exercise, because it meant that even without buying fake twitter followers, I still choked up nearly 25% fake followers on twitter, which means that Anwar Ibrahim’s 35% fake follower rate wasn’t too far off the mark, however I still can’t account for Najib Razaks 56% without getting a bit suspicious -but only a bit.
Before you make any judgements, it’s also important to note that the results were based on a sample size of 2000 followers per account. For me, that meant all 500+ of my followers were selected and analyzed, however for Anwar’s 200,000 followers, that translates to less than 1% of the entire Anwar-Following-Twitter-Population. For our Prime Minister, that’s a ridiculously small sample size (around 0.15% of his total followship). So obviously the results have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
I’ve also done the same test for Lim Kit Siangs twitter account–and he actually did worse than Najib!!
However, if we take the results at face value, it still means that Najib has more than 600,000 ‘real’ twitter followers–which is more followers than Anwar (both ‘real’ and ‘fake’).
The problem is, I’m not so sure the face value of the results are anywhere near accurate.
If anything, nothing can be garnered from these results –just yet. I’m sure the guys over at Social Baker could analyze Najib the same way they analyzed Justin Bieber, but that would cost some money.
However, the one real result I took away was that the number of twitter followers you have (or someone else has) can be deceiving. Ultimately the whole point of twitter is to connect to people–REAL people, but the question of how many real people are following someone is a difficult question to answer. The reality is that the number of followers on twitter isn’t really meaningful unless taken into context–what matters at the end of the day, is how many real people you’re able to influence, and how many effective conversations you can hold and spark…that’s a bit harder of a metric to measure but ultimately the most important.