On July 21, Mitt Romney’s Twitter account suddenly gained over 100,000 new followers in a day. This development was odd, because Romney wasn’t even campaigning due to the Colorado movie theater shootings.
An analysis by Barracuda Labs sheds some light on who, or more specifically what, these new followers are. Note: the analysis included the four days after the sudden spike in followers.
Here is what we now know about Romney’s Twitter new followers from July 21-26:
The number of Romney’s followers increased 17% (or 116,922) on a single day Jul 21, 2012, going from 673,002 to 789,924.
25% of these followers are less than 3 weeks old (created after July 17th 2012), 80% of them are less than 3 months old.
23% or about 1/4 of these followers have no tweet.
10% of these account has already been suspended by Twitter.
Based on the above distinguishable features, we believe most of these recent followers of Romney are not from a general Twitter population but most likely from a paid Twitter follower service.
The author of the Barracuda Labs study was careful to point out that buying Twitter followers doesn’t require authentication of the account, so it could be supporters or opponents buying the followers for Romney’s account.
This is where a little common sense and knowledge about recent campaign strategies on social media comes into play. 2012 GOP primary candidates Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney all had Twitter accounts that were loaded with bought followers. Campaigns and their supporters view Twitter followers as measure of their candidate’s popularity.
Obama built a massive Twitter following and they play an important role in messaging and mobilization, but for some of the GOP 2012 presidential candidates having a lot of Twitter followers, real or otherwise, is a status symbol.
Knowing what we know about previous Republican 2012 candidates, and the Romney camp’s lack of real popular support, the odds are the campaign or their supporters purchased the new followers.
Obama and his 18 million followers are more than ten times larger than Romney. While it is possible that someone on the left thought they could embarrass Romney by giving him more Twitter followers — an idea which doesn’t make much sense because fake Twitter followers have to be paid for and instead of embarrassing Romney giving him an increase in followers would make him look more popular — the most likely scenario here is that Mitt Romney was buying Twitter followers.
Just like Newt Gingrich before him, Romney or whoever bought these followers for him violated Twitter’s terms of service. Since Twitter turns a blind eye to a lot of this activity, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to discipline Romney. Newt Gingrich wasn’t kicked off of Twitter after he admitted buying followers, and Twitter is definitely not going to lay a finger on the Republican nominee.
Until Mitt Romney or his campaign deny it, it is a pretty safe bet that the Republican nominee for president, or someone acting on his behalf, is buying Twitter followers.
Much like his tax returns, Romney can disprove this if he wants to. All he has to do provide the proof.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association