Virtual Netwmentum!

FURTHER UPDATE: I am wrong about this. Mashable ran a study to confirm that Gingrich’s follower count is legit. Here’s a link to the smackdown of me in the comments section at David Meerman Scott’s blog.

I’m a bit late to this post from HubSpot’s blog about Republican general election contenders and the prominence of their online profiles, but I’m juuuust starting to get through my RSS feed now. I like HubSpot’s blog, because it puts out a consistent amount of content by industry blog standards and it often has cool infographics. On this one, however, they I didn’t do their my research.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the stats on Perry or Romney, but the ones on Gingrich deserve a grain an asteroid of salt. Here’s why: per a former Gingrich staffer, Newt’s been dipping his toes into the black-hat game:

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.

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 (Newt’s profile just happens to be a part of these networks because he uses them, although he doesn’t follow back), and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich. If you simply scroll through his list of followers you’ll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated. Pathetic, isn’t it?

Not convinced? I can understand why. First of all, that’s coming from a former staffer, who, given the nature of politics, might very well be disgruntled and itching to screw Newt over. Furthermore, that interview comes via Gawker, which some people might not think of as the most credible source.

So, PeekYou, the social networking research firm, crunched Newt’s numbers. Here’s what they found:

“We just started running the 2012 candidates’ numbers three weeks ago,” said Josh Mackey, PeekYou’s general manager of business and product development, “and when we saw your story, we went back to pull the Gingrich numbers. The huge majority of his followers are either completely anonymous people who have no other web presence, or they are spambots.”

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.

Here’s a link to ABC News, which has the same info, if Gawker ain’t yo thang (it ain’t mine, FWIW). So, yeah. Be careful, HubSpot (UPDATE: and David Meerman Scott). It ain’t just Republican primary voters of whom Newt is trying to take advantage.

2 thoughts on “Virtual Netwmentum!

  1. Actually, the initial reports and allegations made against Newt Gingrich turned out to be false if you folow the story all the way through. This is why the mainstream media never really ran completely with the story. This would have been a headline on CNN for weeks if it had been true. This Mashable article was the final and true analysis of the whole thing: http://mashable.com/2011/08/24/twitter-analysis-vindicates-gingrich/

    Quote: “So there is no smoking gun to suggest that Gingrich, or any of these politicians, bought any of their followers.”

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