Somewhere in the world there are thousands of pretend people with nothing better to do than follow Colin Barnett and Mark McGowan on Twitter. An audit of the social media accounts of the party leaders finds more than one in six of their Twitter followers are classified by a leading Twitter tool as ‘fakes’ — a sign the followers are inactive, have few or no followers of their own, or show all the signs of being robot accounts.
Fake followers are pretty common. You don’t have to pay for fakes to gain them — most of us collect them like dust over time — but having too many trailing along on an account can disguise how popular or unpopular a tweeter really is.
Mr McGowan had 1737 fakes, or 17 per cent of his followers at the time of audit, while Mr Barnett had 1833 fakes, 18 per cent of his followers at the time.
That’s better than the Liberal Party’s John Day, who has 22 per cent of his followers classified as fake. Other politicians who should run a thorough check of their flock include Labor’s Dave Kelly and Michelle Roberts, who each appear to have a 10 per cent fake following, and most MPs have fakes for between 3 and 5 per cent of their followers.
But not the Liberal Party’s Eleni Evangel, who has just one likely fake out of her following of 80-odd probably real people. Well done!
— Eleni Evangel MLA (@EleniEvangelMLA) January 29, 2017
Having a fake follower might seem benign but they can be trouble. Firstly, it never looks good for your reputation if you have had to buy in friends (and some companies will sell you 2500 followers for $60).
Some want you to click on their scantily clad but alluring photograph to send you a bucket of malware.
Some exist to make the tweeter appear more popular and some just hang around doing nothing in particular.
Most people will have some fakes, and politicians seem to attract more than their fair share, but they waste your time as they tend not to engage, can obscure your understanding of your real audience, and waste any money you spend talking to your following by not really caring about anything you say.
You can weed out your fakes by trying a free tool like Twitter Audit and by deleting random eggs, women wearing little more than a smile, and accounts with names that are just a bunch of letters (hello @hxibrukwynk).
Interested in knowing more? Check out the terrifying graph of what 8000 fake Twitter accounts looks like, mapping a world of zombie Twitter bots and their strange interactions. Or talk to us about how to get more out of your social media audience engagement than by chatting to a fan base of fakes.