Will the Real Twitter (Followers) Please Stand Up?

tweet_birdie_flying_between_phones_300_clr_9168I like Twitter.  I enjoy it because I am able to get my message out and I think I have for the most part,the right followers who appreciate my message.  I also like Twitter, because it makes me think how I (as one who speaks for a living and having the gift for gab) can put my message into 140 characters in a creative way.  Finally, as a user I like it, because I can search quickly for things I am looking for, as well as scan quickly for things I am interested in and overlook those things I am not.

Recently I have read a number of blog articles about how Twitter has exploded in terms of followers.  Honestly I am not so sure.  Yes, it is true that more teens are leaving Facebook for Twitter (see Pew Internet Study), but the more I have conversed with my colleagues I have come to learn that maybe Twitter is not nearly as big as we want to believe.  For example 4 of my social media colleagues recently had a conversation where we discovered we all had multiple accounts.  In one case one of my colleagues had 9 Twitter profiles.  We also learned that for most of us we only really use one account, and the others are pretty much inactive.  Another colleague told me that quite honestly he doesn’t use his Twitter profiles much at all anymore because he finds his experience on Google Plus (G+) to be much better than his experience on Twitter.  This experience led me to want to search to see if I could begin to figure out how many people really use Twitter.

I also read an article on a computer generated social media guru by the name of santiago-swallowSantiago Swallow.  He was a fake user, his creator paid for fake followers, and at one point he had well over 80,000 followers.  If it was possible to build a “fake” user and completely fool Twitter…how many fake accounts are there on Twitter?

There are so many companies and mobile apps that you can purchase at a very small price where you can literally “buy” followers.  However, the more I dug into “buying” followers, the more I came across the notion that many of these followers are in fact fake accounts that have been simply created to make people look like they have large numbers.  Some of them certainly are computer generated SPAM, but either way the accounts are fake.

This raised my curiosity about fake and inactive accounts and how many may be out there in reality.  I did some research and I ran across a website entitled “Fake Follower Check” .  This site allows you to check your own profile and the profiles of others in regard to the percentage of followers that are fake, inactive, and real.

internetdoctor followersSo for my account at the time of this writing I had 632 followers.  Here is the report it gave me on my profile. This means that 12.64 of my followers are fake, 75.84 are InActive, and 543.52 of my followers are actually real and are interacting on some level.  I believe that based on my follower count.  This is probably an accurate representation of my profile.  I have no doubt that 14% of my followers are basically non-existent.

This then caused me to do a little research on larger profiles to see how off they maybe.  Now understand that I started with my profile.  So my hypothesis was that they would have probably more fake and inactive followers simply because the very high profiles have marketing managers and departments that want to make the people they represent as having as high a number as possible.  Why?  Psychologically as humans we are drawn to large numbers.  The larger the number the more people will be drawn to it, and we start to see the evidence on some level of group conformity simply because of the high number of people that are in agreement that they follow someone.  Not to be left out, many people will follow, because they want to be part of something bigger than they are and be in the “in” group.

The next step was to go to a website entitled “Twitaholic” which tracks user statistics in regard to number of “tweets”, how many people an account follows, and how many people follow an account.  I then decided to look at the top 10 followed accounts.  Which I took a screen shot of.  It is quite impressive.

twitaholic top 10

Between all these accounts from Justin Bieber @JustinBieber to Shakira @Shakira the total number of followers came to 303,259,832 followers.  This is almost mind blowing that 10 people can have this many followers.

Then I analyzed each account through the Fake Follower Check and here is what I found.

#1 Justin Bieber

justin bieber fakes

Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good  

39,933,458     16,372,717.78    12,778,706.56      10,782,033.66

#2 Lady Gaga

lady gaga fakes

Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good  

37,890,889     17,050,900.05    12,882,902.26    7,957,068.69

#3 Katy Perry

katy perry fake

 Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

37,314,349     18,284,031.01      11,194,304.7      7,836,013.29

#4 Barack Obama

barack obama fake

Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

32,247,293     16,123,646.5          9,996,660.83      6,126,985.67

#5 Rihanna

rihanna fake

 Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

29,833,454     10,441,708.9         9,248,370.74      10,143,374.36

#6 Taylor Swift

taylor swift fake

Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

28,596,372     13,726,258.56        8,578,911.6        6,291,201.84

#7 YouTube

youtube fake

Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

28,506,988     12,258,004.84       8,837,166.28      7,411,816.88

#8 Britney Spears

britney spears fake

 Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

27,220,255     14,154,532.6          7,621,671.4          5,444,051

#9 Justin Timberlake

justin timberlake fake

Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

20,917,182     8,366,872.8            6,275,154.6         6,275,154.6

#10 Shakira

shakira fake

 Total                 Fake                     Inactive                Good

20,809,591     9,156,220.04          7,283,356.85      4,370,014.11

I then went through the total numbers and found that when adding all the “Good” followers from all accounts that revealed a total of 72,637,714.1 Actual followers.  This was 24.95% or for all intents and purposes 25% meaning that 75% of the top 10 followers were either fake or inactive, that total number was 230,622,117.9 fake or inactive followers. This number blew me away.  Even if this number were to be off by as much as 20%, which I doubt, the number is enormous and raises serious doubts about how many real people are really using Twitter.

Implications for Business
Now I understand that it is possible that many of these of fakes and inactives are the same accounts shared between profiles.  Meaning I am certain that there is quite a bit of overlap between these accounts.  However, it also suggests that fake accounts are far more prevalent on Twitter then what we probably realize.

Statistically we have a major problem when trying to predict how effective Twitter really is for business.  If in 10 accounts we are able to find 10’s of millions of fake, and inactive users most certainly if I were to continue going the numbers would only get larger.  So how many real and active users are there?  I don’t think we really know, but it is certainly obvious that Twitter is not nearly as big as we are led to believe by the numerous articles that exist.

1.  Twitter is a culture of fame and celebrity status.  This applies to people, media, and brands.  If you are a major well known brand you have a distinct advantage.  If you are not, you will be climbing an uphill battle one that may become more frustrating and discouraging on Twitter versus any other platform.

2. There are just simply not as many real users as we are led to believe.  This is a problem for small business, because there are far few real users meaning that statistically there are fewer in your target market.  While they may be or may not be better qualified the numbers make less sense for small businesses.  Recent literature from Pew Internet suggests that about 16% of internet users use Twitter, meaning 1 out of 6 approximately. The data would not suggest it is that high.  I believe they have an account, but I do not believe they are truly active users.

3.  Getting the “right” Twitter followers is not as easy as you may be led to believe.  Yes you can use the power of reciprocation to gather those followers, but if you are going to do it correctly you are going to have to sort through hundreds if not thousands of profiles making sure that they are the right people that fit into your target market, are real and active, then follow them, and hope that you will get a percentage of those people to follow you back.  This is a major commitment that can quickly become a time hole.

4.  Twitter is not nearly as interactive as some people would have us to believe.  When you look at the top 1000 accounts you will find that they typically do not interact. Dan Zarrella in his latest book demonstrates that the more followers you have the less interaction.  Interaction is the advantage for small business.  The corporation is different they have major marketing dollars and can use Twitter in a much different way without regard for interaction. The ally of small business is the ability to communicate, interact, and create business through personal connection that creates “knowing, liking, and “trust”…and trust can only happy through regular interaction and conversation.

5.  Twitter may not be your best option.  Quite often we hear people saying you need to be on all the major social media platforms.  I am not convinced this is true.  Not every platform is right for every business.  Yes there may be some of your future clients there, but in terms of evaluating time cost versus actual dollars, some platforms will not make your wallet any fatter, and ultimately that is true ROI.  It is okay not to be on every social media platform.  Twitter may not be right for you.

You will have to decide for yourself if Twitter is a good option for your business.  That being said, if you did not use it…your business will probably do just fine without it.

To Your Business Mental Health and Success!

Jay Izso, Internet Doctor®

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One Response to Will the Real Twitter (Followers) Please Stand Up?

  1. Linda Craft says:

    This is amazing research and validates a feeling I have also had about the time spent on Twitter and who are all these people following me? Now I know many are fake. Wonder how many of my followers really are fake. hmmmm? Maybe I need to hire the Internet Doctor. Thanks

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