UPDATE: A report from Buzzfeed says that Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, rejects these accusations.
A number of reports have come out speculating that Mitt Romney has purchased Twitter followers in efforts to boost online presence etc. @140Elect first posted and now ThinkProgress and more have posted about this. I personally believe he’s being sabotaged.
Having worked in the social media field for 4-5 years as a professional now, I’ve come into contact with literally hundreds of people who offer services to buy followers, fans, Youtube views, and more. Most are done by an automated software program running a script to rapidly create accounts using a slew of masking features to erase the trail of generation.
With that being said, I have been through the process of buying fans, views and more (you gotta try it out right?) You really don’t need to even be the owner of that page.
How does the typical paid-follower transaction work?
1. You get an email blast offering 1000 twitter followers for $10.
2. You respond and say “hey sure!”
3. They email back usually with one sentence asking simply for the desired account name, and your paypal address
4. Within 24 hours your accounts blow up, and in most cases, you get locked out of Twitter because it can’t handle the influx, and unless you’re legitimately tweeting regularly with real people you’re account gets suspended.
After trying this out with poor results (go figure) my colleagues and I had a running joke that we could totally mess up a brand’s demographic data by buying 100,000 Facebook likes.
“It looks like we’ve seen an increase in 13-15 year old Malaysian boys this month Mr. CEO”
With the scathing nature of the millions of so-called “social experts” this is the type of story that would seriously ignite rage in the thousands of legitimate marketers, and inspire countless empty attack tweets from the masses.
This very well could be what happened to Mitt.
But, for the hell of it, let’s take a look at the other side.
Theory one: There’s a large contingency out there who will maintain that a large Twitter follower number will bring in new followers who see the influence. I personally know a number of musicians, large brands, PR agencies and more who have invested in this practice. While I don’t agree with that theory myself, it is certainly not a wild thought to imagine that one of Romney’s marketing members did this to help inflate numbers.
The second theory is that his team is buying followers as a PR stunt to in fact gain more legitimate followers. Aside from the PR stunt (which would be kind of silly if true) an overall surge in social content and new followers would give messages from Mitt a higher chance of being seen inside Twitter’s search, suggested stories, and top tweets.
Personally, I have a moderate number of followers for my profession. When I’m tweeting using a certain hashtag, my tweets tend to be seen more in Top Tweets than fellow colleagues with less followers or influence.
Third Theory: Someone in his camp may have unknowingly purchased followers to try and help. Thanks to Jim Ross Consulting on Twitter for the suggestion: “protect me from my friends, I can handle my enemies”
Either way I’m sure we’ll find more about the details, since it has taken national news now I’m sure that the appropriate political watchdogs will research further. What’s a “paid” follower vs. unpaid anyways, when you advertise on Facebook or Twitter you’re buying new fans anyways, just from the real site.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below. (By the way this is a completely non-partisan post, just observing the social effects on the election)