Looking back, it does seem a bit odd that Newt Gingrich has more followers on Twitter than Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul and Speaker John Boehner combined.
On Monday, Gawker reported that a former Gingrich staffer told them about why he has so many Twitter followers: he cheated. The staffer said that "Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them."
The staffer went on to say that about 80% of Gingrich's Twitter followers are inactive or dummy accounts created to boost his count and make him look more socially relevant.
Unfortunately for Newt, it might be even worse than that.
Late yesterday, the social search company PeekYou posted the results of their own analysis of Gingrich's Twitter account. On their blog, they say that they crunched the numbers a week or so ago while doing so for all the GOP presidential candidates. When they heard the news about what the Gingrich staffer had told Gawker, they took a second look at all the numbers.
And sure enough, Newt's hefty Twitter base is a mirage. They concluded that only 8% of his followers are "human." This would put his actual follower count at somewhere around 106,000 - a far cry from the 1.3 million plus that he touts.
Here's how PeekYou determines which followers are real, active users and which followers aren't -
PeekYou identifies the “consumer” or in Newt’s case “voters” by using algorithms that PeekYou has developed over the past five years. “It’s determined by over 20 factors including name, location, social graph, social memberships, social network, social activity and produced public content. The issue is separating out the spam bots and anonymous accounts which can look a lot like each other; so its hard for everyone, including Twitter, to weed out the fake accounts,” said Josh Mackey, GM of Product.
Gingrich's camp has fired back against these allegations. His press secretary told ABC News -
“We’ve never utilized firms, agencies, or outside organizations to inflate Newt’s Twitter followers."
And to be fair, this PeekYou data doesn't conclusively prove that Gingrich or his campaign has actively solicited agencies to pump up his Twitter followers. But it does seem to suggest that a staggering majority are inactive dummy accounts.
Also, Gawker obtained analysis of the other GOP'ers from PeekYou and found that many followers of the top dawgs can be identified as inactive dummy accounts. For example, only 32% of Tim Pawlenty's Twitter followers were identified as "real."
Last night, The Colbert Report took on Newt Gingrich's Twittergate. Colbert asks how could a man with tweeting gems like "Had great lunch at Mabe's Pizza" not have over a million followers? Check out the video below -
And that account he mentions, @041113846806103, now has a name, picture and location following last night's Colbert appearance.