Newt Gingrich’s Million Or So Inactive Followers Aren’t Really His Fault

In a story we covered in early August, Newt Gingrich was accused of paying for thousands of fake, or dummy, Twitter followers to pump up his perceived influence on Twitter. Gawker got the scoop on the story, which used data to suggest that of Gingrich’s more than 1,325,000 followers, only about 8 to ten percent were real people interested in what he has to say.

Well, Mashable took the story a bit deeper, and did some analysis of their own. And it looks like “fake” followers are plaguing all politicians of a certain type on Twitter, not just Gingrich alone.

When questioned about the fake follower accusations earlier this month, Gingrich said that a significant portion of them poured in when he was on Twitter’s Suggested User List, which was a list of 200 accounts users might find interesting, promoted by Twitter in 2009 and 2010.

Mashable discovered that there were ten politicians on the list, including Al Gore, John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.

And if Gingrich was right, they figured, all of these politicians would have roughly the same proportion of fake accounts following them.

Mashable worked with social media search company Topsy to take an exhaustive look at the followers of all of the politicians on the Suggested Users List. And the findings? Gingrich was vindicated.

Here is part of what they uncovered:

“… 76% of Gingrich’s followers have posted no information about themselves in the bio section of their profile. But the same is true for 68% of Rania’s followers, 74% of both Booker and McCain’s followers, 78% of California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s followers and 79% of California Gov. Jerry Brown‘s followers.”

Roughly the same proportion of followers of each politician hadn’t updated their picture, or tweeted in the past month either.

It looks like Gingrich didn’t pay for followers as was previously speculated.

As we noted in our previous article about Gingrich’s followers, the accusation that he paid for a large chunk of them came from an anonymous source – and a spurned one at that. So it’s no surprise that the conclusion that source made about his inactive followers was a negative one.

On another note, it’s probably a good thing Twitter removed the Suggested User List, if it was filling up its members’ follower count with inactive accounts.