Are Newt Gingrich’s Twitter followers real? Social media analysts disagree

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is facing accusations he paid outside firms to generate his impressive Twitter following. But is it true?

The accusation, first made Monday by an anonymous former Gingrich staffer, is that his 1.3 million Twitter followers are fakes — dummy accounts created by agencies employed by Gingrich. Journalists and social media analysts have been digging through Gingrich’s Twitter data since then, trying to determine the validity of this claim.

One social media firm reports Gingrich’s Twitter followers are bunk. PeekYou, a company that analyzes Twitter data, says only 8 percent of Gingrich’s followers are real, as opposed to spam, private or business accounts. It was the lowest percentage the team had ever come across.

“We have seen some pretty low ‘Consumer Ratios’ in our testing, but Newt Gingrich’s was the lowest we had ever seen,” said PeekYou CEO and founder Michael Hussey in a press release. “At first, we actually thought it might have been a bug on our side, but a quick manual look at the data showed our analysis was true.”

“Once the news broke yesterday the team went back to look at the report,” Hussey continued. “The data supported that out of Newt’s 1.3 million followers only 8 percent (2 percent less than claimed in recent media reports), are identified by our algorithm as humans, meaning Newt’s follower count is really closer to 106,055.”

That would be much closer to his competitors’ numbers, but it would still place Gingrich on top of the heap of GOP candidates. Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann each has fewer than 100,000 Twitter followers. (RELATED: Former staffer: Gingrich pays for fake Twitter followers)

Others, however, maintain Gingrich’s followers are for real.

Timothy Hathaway, CEO of Activist Manager, said his company has a project that tracks the Klout scores of presidential candidates. Klout is a website that assigns Twitter users a score based on an analysis of their followers’ behavior and — importantly — on the quality of those followers.

Hathaway said Gingrich checks in “at a healthy 71.72,” which would make him third among presidential candidates, bested only by Barack Obama and Herman Cain.

Gingrich is listed on Klout as a personality rather than a candidate because his account was formed before his campaign, something that also could point to the genuineness of his Twitter following.

The former Speaker of the House gained the vast majority of his followers before he announced his candidacy. He had more than 1 million at the start of 2o11.

For its part, the Gingrich campaign continues to deny the accusations. “We’ve never utilized firms, agencies or outside organizations to inflate Newt’s Twitter followers,” said Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond.