Twitter is a numbers game, or so we’re told. To get exposure you need more retweets. To get more retweets, you need more followers. To get more followers, you have to give the perception that you have a ton of followers. That’s allegedly how the game works.
In reality, as a social media company, we can tell you that the real value in Twitter comes through reach. It’s not how many times you’re retweeted or how many people follow you. It’s how many people you reach with your message. This is why most of the common statistics publicly available on Twitter are relatively worthless. They’re good for conversation, but that’s about it. The real numbers are in reach and engagement which are only available to the owners of a Twitter account itself.
For example, it would appear to be good that my personal Twitter account has 101K followers. The reality is that this number doesn’t do much for me. The only thing that truly counts is how many real people see and engage with the Tweets. Here is one of my most popular recent Tweets:
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) November 5, 2015
If you were to go strictly by the number of retweets and the number of followers I have, one might believe that this was a huge Tweet. It wasn’t.
I’ve seen Tweets that reach millions that generate tens of thousands of clicks to the website. This popular Tweet generated 8 clicks. It didn’t exactly burn up the analytics, but then again that’s not the real value of Twitter from a political perspective. The real juice comes from exposure to a message. That’s what political strategists on social media are going for and it’s why, despite terrible numbers, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are winning the social media war.
Some are pointing to Clinton as having a bad situation with her fake Twitter followers, 41% of which are fake.
— Saving Liberty ???????? (@LibertyUSA1776) November 9, 2015
To be completely fair, it’s easy to fake followers. In fact, it’s easy for someone else to fake followers. For not very much money, someone can pay despicable companies to inflate Twitter numbers. This can be good for those who want to appear more popular than they really are but it can be an embarrassment for those who are running for office. With no fault of their own, someone can be painted as being too fake on social media and the majority of the masses who do not understand how this stuff works might view it as a negative.
Newt Gingrich found this out the hard way in the last Presidential election cycle.
— Ric the Magnificent (@NASCARNAC) February 4, 2012
For Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, their high fake follower numbers might seem shocking, but it’s really no big deal. There is no way to tell if someone artificially inflated their numbers to try to help them or if someone else tried to hurt them. It’s hard to imagine that either campaign would intentionally use fake techniques to inflate the numbers. After all, they would each be #1 for their party even if all of the fake accounts were removed.
I would never pass on an opportunity to point to Hillary Clinton’s faults, but this is not one of those cases. She has a ton of fake followers. Who cares? It’s meaningless.
For the record, here’s how the seven major candidates on Twitter break down based upon TwitterAudit‘s reports: