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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Is the Trump campaign buying Twitter followers?

Fake Twitter accounts are typically created for one of two reasons. One is to spam a product or scam website by tweeting disguised links to it. But most of Trump’s fake followers have never even tweeted anything, suggesting that they’ve been created for the second reason: so they could be sold to those who so desperate to boost their Twitter follower count that they’re willing to pay money for it. This is commonplace behavior on the part of overseas fake-account farms, and yeah they’re easy to buy, and Twitter has done too little to police this kind of thing over the years.

Donald Trump tweeted a Daily News Bin article, and I learned most of his Twitter fans aren’t real

Donald Trump is bragging this morning that he’s gained two hundred thousand new Twitter followers in the past ten days, pushing him past the eleven million mark. I always get a kick out this particular braggadocio, because Trump once tweeted a link to an article I’d written for this publication Daily News Bin. He liked it because it was critical of his then-opponent Marco Rubio. And by watching the real time traffic stats for my site, I realized that most of Trump’s Twitter followers appear to be fake to begin with.

When you run a website and you get a traffic spike, such as Donald Trump tweeting one of your articles, Google allows you to watch the incoming traffic play out in real time. It’s all anonymous, just the number of people on a particular article coming from a particular source, and so on, so no one’s privacy or private data is violated by these kinds of analytics. But they do allow you to see just how big or little of a spike you get from various events.
For whatever reasons, a number of popular Twitter users have tweeted Daily News Bin articles this year, allowing me to use those traffic spikes as benchmarks. It’s at least slightly apples to oranges, because one article might be more interesting than the next, or someone might tweet it at a a more opportune time of day. But when Donald Trump tweeted my negative article about Rubio, something his fans should have eaten up during primary season, the real-time spike in Daily News Bin traffic coming in from for that article was only a tiny fraction of what I’ve come to expect from an account with millions of followers.
In contrast, when Keith Olbermann tweeted one of my articles, it received a noticeably larger traffic spike despite the fact that Olbermann is listed as only having about five percent as many Twitter followers. Debra Messing has been able to send far more traffic to my site with a tweet than Trump could, and she only has about three percent as many followers as Trump. It’s been the same story with Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, Rosie O’Donnell, and others who have tweeted or retweeted Daily News Bin stories: the size of the spike is fairly predictable based on how many followers that public figure has.

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