This week, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich learned a valuable lesson about paying for Twitter followers: not only did he put his reputation at risk; he also demonstrated that the strategy simply doesn’t work.
It all began with Mr. Gingrich informing the Marietta Daily Journal: “I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined.”
Days later, a former Gingrich staffer set off a firestorm when he told Gawker that most of those 1.3 million followers are in fact fake. Analysis by several outlets, including PeekYou, confirmed the claim: the vast majority of Mr. Gingrich’s Twitter followers are anonymous or spam accounts.
In fact, PeekYou’s analysis determined that only 8% of Gingrich’s followers were real people.
So how prevalent is the problem of paying for followers? PeekYou points out that a simple Google search for “buy Twitter followers” turns up more than 1.5 million hits, an indication of how widespread the practice has become.
But if so many corporations and Twitter users are engaging in this deceptive practice, it obviously must work, right?
From our analysis of Mr. Gingrich’s Twitter network, we discovered that the answer is NO.
If Mr. Gingrich’s goal in artificially propping up his number of Twitter followers was to generate more online traffic about his campaign, his plan has, to date, been a failure.
Using monitoring tools available on the Radian6 platform, we determined that Gingrich’s sizable advantage in Twitter followers has not translated to increased traffic on Twitter or traffic online as a whole.
Surprisingly, over the last 30 days, Mr. Gingrich trails seven of the other GOP presidential contenders—including two candidates (Rick Perry and Sarah Palin) who have not yet formally announced their candidacy—in both Twitter mentions and online traffic.
Despite having nearly 20 times more Twitter followers than Michele Bachmann, Gingrich has generated 85% fewer tweets, and 85% fewer posts, mentions, and articles online in the last month.
This incident demonstrates that even though social media channels operate in a digital world, there’s still no way to fake real human interaction and dialogue.
In the end, the number of your Twitter or Facebook followers isn’t what counts the most. It’s the conversations you create with them that make a real impact. Unfortunately, as Mr. Gingrich and many others have discovered, you can’t have a conversation with a bot.