This week, the Westboro Baptist folks announced their intent to picket the funeral of Joan Rivers. Comments about Rivers finally resulted in the suspension of the group’s main Twitter account – @WBCsays. Several other Twitter accounts opened in the name of various church members, including Fred Phelps, Jr., remain open and are used to retweet whatever the church leadership wants disseminated.
With their Twitter account suspended, they ran a pic on their Instagram account, calling Rivers a “Fag Enabler In Hell”.
According to a recent Westboro blog post, Westboro Baptist is a group of only about 75 people. They seem to make headlines at least weekly. How does a group this small, especially one that rails against “the media”, manage to make the splash that they do? Is it their social media presence?
As noted above, Westboro runs an “echo chamber” of Twitter accounts that re-tweet things to give the impression that there is a bigger outreach than is really there. For example, here are some of the “dupe accounts” the group runs, including follower counts.
@FalseReligions – 7,002
@WBCBecky – 1,139
@WBCPhotos – 640
@WBCFliers – 1,062
@WBCaudio – 1,009
@GodH8sTheWorld – 2,361
@GodH8sTheMedia – 1,305
As long as this bunch has been marching around, one would think that they would have amassed more followers than this, even just among the curious, press outlets, and bots.
An example of the group’s Twitter reach is an article I wrote yesterday about their threat to picket the Rivers’ funeral. The WBC itself tweeted out a link to the article, then re-tweeted that tweet from seven other Twitter accounts. As of this minute, that article has only been viewed a total of 2,182 times. That’s not good.
Sometimes an article catches a trending cycle and gets tens of thousands of views in a short period of time. Several other Westboro articles have done this, but those were never retweeted by Westboro. That article did not catch a trending wave on its own, which made it a really good test subject for determining the effect that Westboro could have on it. The result: in 24 hours, including a Sunday, Westboro’s tweets only sent me maybe 1,000 page views.
It’s not a thorough, scientific determination, but it tells me that no one should base any sort of marketing or outreach strategy on Westboro’s Twitter presence.