Earlier this morning, Matt McGovern tweeted out an observation about Twitter followers for two opposing accounts:
Has anyone else noticed Rino Mike twitter acct. has 3393 followers & official Rounds campaign acct, with all that $, only has 298? #SDSen— MattMcGovern (@MattMcGovern) June 27, 2013
The “RINO Mike” account, @RINOMikeSD, has been active for some time, firing off a steady stream of criticism that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds is — shockingly — a Republican In Name Only.
The account is anonymous, though some people have alleged that it’s connected with the Senate Conservatives Fund, a vocal Rounds critic that has virtually identical gripes about the former South Dakota governor.
The RINOMike account retweeted McGovern’s post and replied with the suggestion that the follower difference was because “real conservatives don’t support (Rounds) for #SDSEN.”
Whether or not that’s true, it’s beside the point about why the two accounts have a big Twitter follower differential. For one, the Rounds team has barely used Twitter so far. @RoundsforSenate has only made 37 tweets since being created last November. @RinoMikeSD has tweeted 519 times since it was started in March. As a prolific tweeter myself, it’s absolutely the case that except for a very few celebrities, more active accounts generally have more followers.
But there’s another reason @RINOMikeSD has 10 times more followers than his target. Most of RINO Mike’s followers are fake.
I spent a few minutes scrolling through @RINOMikeSD’s followers. It started it with a large number of the kind of people you’d expect — people whose Twitter bios emphasize their conservatism, their faith, their love of guns, their dislike of Barack Obama. Then it shifted into a huge block of people whose bios had nothing to do with conservative activism. Accounts that looked to my eye like the kind of spam accounts that periodically fill up my feed.
So I plugged @RINOMikeSD into http://fakers.statuspeople.com, a website that will roughly estimate what percentage of an account’s 3,395 followers are fake. Here’s the results:
Mike Rounds’ 299 followers, meanwhile, come up as 6 percent fake.
If you multiply that out, @RINOMike has 747 non-fake followers (counting inactive accounts as good). Rounds has 281. That’s still more, but it’s by a factor of three, not 10.
(My own @ArgusMontgomery, by the way, is 6 percent fake, for 1,335 real followers.)
But, there are a few interesting figures among those 747 real followers of @RINOMikeSD. Scrolling through for names I recognized, I saw a lot of South Dakota political junkies following to get a sense of what the account is tweeting. (I’m one of them, as are several other journalists.) There’s also plenty of known conservative activists and groups, including @RepStaceNelson — who RINOMike repeatedly urges to run for Senate.
A few official, verified accounts also follow @RINOMikeSD, including the official accounts of three members of Congress: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla:
Now, following someone on Twitter doesn’t mean you endorse their views. But the fact that these three are following a Twitter account devoted to attacking the GOP frontrunner in South Dakota’s U.S. Senate race is interesting.