When a Twitter account has over two million followers, there are two possible reasons. The first is they’re simply that famous, interesting, or both. Celebrities often get a Twitter following because they have a ton of fans. Meanwhile, average joes can accumulate strong followings by being clever, informative, or otherwise awesome. The second way to get millions of Twitter followers is to buy them. There are several black market services available for people to fork over money and make themselves look popular. Is billionaire presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg doing the former or the latter?
According to Tim Young, a look at his Tweet engagement makes his follower count seem suspicious.
I'm not saying @mikebloomberg bought piles of fake followers… I'm just saying he has 2.3 million followers and his tweets rarely reach 500 likes.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) December 30, 2019
“It’s not hard to see that Mike Bloomberg has fake followers,” Young told NOQ Report. “Even my account performs better with 1/10 of the total followers he has. Also a quick look at his followers reveals empty accounts that only follow people and have no cover or profile photo.”
Twitter “bots” have been rampant on the platform since it started becoming popular over a decade ago. The company has taken steps over the years to purge fake accounts, prevent them from being created, and identify accounts that have been sold or otherwise taken over by sockpuppet account masters. But whenever a new method is developed to prevent them, different techniques are found to circumvent the system. Many politicians have wittingly or unwittingly engaged in this practice, including Newt Gingrich’s infamous spat with accusers in 2011.
Comparing Bloomberg’s Tweet engagement with other candidates, he seems to be at the same basic level as those with much fewer Twitter followers. Conspicuously, the other billionaire in the race, Tom Steyer, has about the same level of engagement despite having around 1/10th of the followers and even less name recognition by comparison. Here’s a sampling of their Tweets:
I’m honored to have had the chance to address the @TCWWHouston this morning – thanks to Dr. @RalphDWest, First Lady @SherettaWest, and the entire church family for giving me such a warm welcome today. pic.twitter.com/1IG8Uhde99
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 29, 2019
We have to make combating climate change our number one priority. Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet, and we have to start acting like it. https://t.co/jacaMtS1Qb
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) December 24, 2019
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 25, 2019
The “Remain in Mexico” Policy is a cruel humanitarian disaster that must be ended immediately. Asylum seekers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not exposed to the very violence that forced them to flee in the first place. https://t.co/ylqRUAHKHu
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) December 22, 2019
My plan provides treatment & diversion programs for those with substance-use disorders. We'll remove unnecessary obstacles to medication-assisted addiction treatment, and enforce federal laws requiring insurance coverage for mental health and substance-abuse disorders.
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 20, 2019
I didn't get to respond to the #DemDebate question on reparations last night. I support reparations and challenge other candidates to do the same. 400 years of legalized discrimination and unfairness. Deep, long-term injustice, and no apology. It's time.
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) December 20, 2019
How is Steyer (or Young, for that matter) able to keep pace and often exceed Bloomberg’s engagement with far fewer followers? Are they just that much more interesting? In Young’s case, that’s very likely the case. But Steyer’s Twitter account is about as interesting as Steyer in person, which isn’t saying much.
This is all anecdotal, of course. But there are services that analyze Twitter followers and make conclusions based on algorithms. When we looked at TwitterAudit, one of the most popular tools for Twitter following analysis, their last update was nearly two years ago. This does not seem to be accurate as his following in January, 2018 was actually only 2.2 million. The count shown through TwitterAudit puts the total number of users checked within a few thousand of the total followers he has today. It would appear the “updated” date is a glitch and this audit is actually accurate for the month of December, 2020.
Twitter audit says only 42% are real… I think it's much less than that. pic.twitter.com/6dq6rSXLDZ
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) December 30, 2019
It would appear that Young’s assessment of Bloomberg’s Twitter account is accurate. What does that tell us about the candidate? It could mean that whoever is handling his Twitter account acted to artificially boost his numbers, whether at Bloomberg’s request or not. If so, it has been a systematic push for years; he only spiked by approximately 50,000 new followers since a month before launching his campaign. If he knew it was happening, he’s complicit. If he didn’t know, he’s incompetent.
Michael Bloomberg has made it clear he’s willing to buy the nomination if necessary. That means unprecedented ad buys on the surface. But is there dishonest boosting happening in the social media shadows? We (and Tim Young) believe so.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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