Twitter's fake followers: Influence for sale

From Lady Gaga to Obama, paid tweets and inflated followings game online reputations and call the whole system into question

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How can you tell if someone has followers who don't exist or have gone silent? Last month, StatusPeople introduced a Web tool called the Fake Follower Check that it says can ascertain how many fake followers you and your friends have. Lady Gaga, the all-time Twitter champ with nearly 30 million followers, actually has far fewer: Just 29 percent of them actually exist. (Disclosure: I don't have all that many followers, but 82 percent are legit.)

Inactive followers aren't the same as fake or purchased followers; sites like Twitter and Google+ have tremendous churn. But the ultimate effect is the same: There's nobody home on the other end of a tweet.

Who are the biggest Twitter fakers?
On the political front, no one had a higher percentage of fake accounts than former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Social media analytics service PeekYou found last August when he was running for president that 92 percent of his purported 1.3 million followers were fake or inactive. His campaign denied that it purchased followers and couldn't explain how those ghost followers managed to materialize.

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. John McCain weren't far behind. Each has an identical percentage of real followers: 27 percent, according to a nonpartisan group called Advocacy Media, which took a close look at Twitter accounts used by members of Congress.

When it comes to celebrities, a writer at Forbes, who either has a ton of patience or not enough to do, used the Fake Follower Check and found that 70 percent of Justin Beiber's 27 million followers are fake, as are 88 percent of Britney Spears', and 74 percent of Oprah Winfrey's.

Twitter isn't alone. Earlier this month, Facebook admitted it has 83 million fake or duplicate accounts. But look on the bright side. The next time one of your coworkers boasts about how many followers he has, just run that handle through the Fake Followers tool and have a good laugh.

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This article, "Twitter's fake followers: Influence for sale," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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