Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the upcoming US elections, must have felt extremely popular on July 22th. In about two days time, he had gained almost 120.000 new followers. To give you an idea of the normal numbers: between June 1st and July 20th, Romney’s Twitter account had a follower growth of about 3.000 new people per day.
Is that even possible, gaining so many new followers in 1 day?
It definitely looks suspicious, especially since these new followers haven’t changed anything about the amount of activity around Romney’s Twitter profile. This summary chart (made with Engagor) shows you everything happening around his profile. The blue line is the follower growth, the red line indicates the activity around the profile. While the activity rate doesn’t show any significant change, the user growth is enormous. 120.000 new followers and none of those ever mentions, retweets or replies to @MittRomney?
This chart is of course no evidence and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, The Atlantic dug into this issue a little deeper. They developed “a simple methodology for testing whether a set of followers is likely to be the product of natural user following behavior or bot networks.” For the technical explanation I advise you to read the original article (for the non-technical readers, like me, good luck with that :)) but what it all comes down to, is this: those 120.000 new followers have very little followers themselves, making it very likely that they’re all bots.
Apart from the numbers and statistical evidence, there’s also a piece of ‘visual evidence’ that proves that at least 5 @MittRomney followers are robots. Ben Sarma, an American internet marketer, noticed his profile picture was being used by some other Twitter users. He sent them a very polite request to remove the profile picture, but none of them did. The reason why is not so hard to guess.
Will the defendant please stand up
Does this mean Mitt Romney or his entourage bought the Twitter followers? Not necessarily. It might very well be possible someone else did, just to damage his reputation. The Romney camp, of course, denies being involved in this fraud but one thing’s for sure: with or without this bot followers, @MittRomney still has a long way to go if he wants to compete with @BarackObama’s 18.000.000 followers.