April 10, 2013, 11:05 AM —
Image credits: Bill Gates: REUTERS/Pascal Lauener, Justin Bieber: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
If you’re like me, when you think of Justin Bieber, you also think of Bill Gates. They’re like two peas in a pod, those two, right? Among the many things they have in common is that they’re both among the most-followed people on Twitter. That also means, though, that a large percentage of their followers are really just fake accounts.
The folks at Socialbakers have developed a Fake Followers tool that will analyze the followers of any Twitter account and determine which accounts are fake (though they do note there’s a margin of error of 10-15%). They use a number of different criteria to identify fake Twitter accounts, including:
The account is following less than 50 people and has less than one follower
More than 30% of all tweets use spam phrases, such as “diet,” “make money,” and “work from home”
The account is more than two months old and still has a default profile image
Using this tool, Statista evaluated the fake follower counts of the top ten most-followed Twitter accounts:
Image credit: Statista
As you can see, the Biebs is, in fact, number one in Twitter followers, with over 37 million, but almost half (45%) are fake. If we reordered the list based on a “real” followers, Lady Gaga would take the top spot and Bieber would be number two. In general, the more Twitter followers one has, the higher the percentage of fake followers.
I used the tool to check out the percentage of fake followers for some of the more popular tweeters from the technology world and found:
Bill Gates (the 37th most followed tweeter): ~11 million followers, 33% fake
David Pogue: ~1.5 million followers, 17% fake
Marissa Mayer: ~307K followers, 12% fake
Then there’s me and my measly 2,700 followers, only 4% of whom are fake. So, there’s some benefit to being unpopular!
What does it all really mean? Not a whole lot. In the case of those celebrities, it’s usually just a reflection of their popularity. But, for others, a large percentage of followers being fake could be a red flag that they’ve paid for a lot of those followers. So, if you’re wondering why someone you’ve never heard of has a crazy number of followers, here’s a way to figure out if something fishy is going on.
In any case, I doubt the Biebs is losing much sleep over this. He’s got bigger fish to fry, such as getting his monkey out of quarantine. I’m sure Bill Gates has had this same problem before.
Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.