By August 14, 2012 2 Comments Read More →

Do Canadian MPs fake their online relationships?

Twitter followers is a metric often cited by social media participants and media as a measure of popularity, influence and reach. While having large a number of followers can certainly increase one’s chances of getting noticed, it’s more likely a reflection of people clicking on the “follow” link for convenience or to satisfy curiosity. Like the “Like” button in Facebook, one wonders how many people would “follow” a Twitter account if the action was actually named “Trust.”

In social media circles, there is buzz about the phenomenon of people buying Twitter followers as a way to suggest greater influence, reach and trust. Some believe large numbers of followers helps increase third-party influence scores using tools like Klout.

A new tool attempts to add some clarity to the discussion. Using an undisclosed formula, and undisclosed criteria for determining what constitutes fake and inactive accounts, StatusPeople evaluates a sample of 500 follower accounts in a Twitter profile to help you understand how many active/legitimate accounts are among your Twitter followers. [See more detailed stats at Which MPs have the “most legitimate” Twitter followings?]

After assessing my own account (0% fake, 7% inactive, 93% good), I decided it was time to look at some high profile Canadian politicians. I started with the party leaders.

By the way, it’s important to note using tool this to evaluate MP Twitter accounts is meant as a fun exercise. There’s no way to prove the merit of this tool at this time and the sample size of 500 may result in skewed results when applied to accounts with large followings.

Then it was time to look at some of the more digitally-active MPs. Tony Clement has long been cited (by myself included) as a social media rock star, and MPs such including Denis Coderre and Justin Trudeau are often noted in the media for their Tweets.

UPDATE

I realize I didn’t elaborate on the significance of fake accounts when considering the size of a following.

Traditional media is still where people get their news; and in short segments. This means there is a limited window in which to explain the nuances of Twitter followings and we have been unable to quantify why this is an issue for the general public. Inactive accounts are one thing. Those accounts may have at one time been active. Consider MP Charlie Angus as an example of a once active Tweeter who intentionally made his account dormant. Still, most dormant accounts likely end up that way due to circumstance rather than by design.

Fake accounts, on the other hand, pose a different problem. Most people unfamiliar with social media would understand why fake accounts matter. I suppose it could be explained as fictitious voters except that approach over-legitimizes fake accounts. It’s unclear whether this new tool by SocialPeople identifies bulk-purchased follower accounts as fake, if the fake followers happened organically or if some other rigid or even loose criteria is applied to identify whether an otherwise legitimate account is fake. Perhaps as an example, an account started for legitimate purposes which haven’t materialized to the point of having completed the account profile and publishing substantive tweets. I admit I hold a few of those.

In any case, this Faker tool gives us our first easy way to provide some measure of how legitimate a twitter following is, even if only for discussion purposes.

Have fun checking out your account.

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About the Author:

Mark Blevis is a digital public affairs strategist and President of FullDuplex.ca, an integrated digital communications, public affairs and research company. His work focuses on the role of digital tools and culture on issues and reputation management. He also leads research into how Canadian opinions are shaped through online content and interactions.