My Twitter following is much purer than Obama's



President Obama on election night, after aides notified him he had new followers on Twitter
  • Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • President Obama on election night, after aides notified him he had new followers on Twitter
I received a thrilling e-mail last night. "Steve Bogira, we found some people you may know on Twitter," the subject line said.

The "people" were—a website about the Chicago area; Bob Fioretti, alderman of Chicago's Second Ward; and Barack Obama.

Alderman Fioretti! You can understand why I was so excited.

As for Barack Obama—sure, the name's familiar, but I must admit I don't really know the dude. I found him on Wikipedia, though, and the entry refreshed my memory.

This isn't the only social media overture I've gotten lately involving a politician. Ever since the election, Mitt Romney's been hounding me to join his network on LinkedIn.

I noted that Obama has 24 million Twitter followers. I haven't checked, but I believe this is more than I have, give or take.

I was dismayed about the president's staggering followers lead over me—until I learned that most of his followers are bogus. As the New York Times reported in August, a social media company in London, StatusPeople, has a Fake Followers Check, with which one can scrutinize the authenticity of a Twitter following. Obama's following back then, barely 19 million, turned out to be 70 percent phony—that is, 70 percent of his purported followers were either "fake" or "inactive." I ran the check again this morning, and the president's followership is still 35 percent fake, 34 percent inactive, and only 31 percent "good." My following, on the other hand, is 3 percent fake, 11 percent inactive, and 86 percent bona fide.

Fake followers come to a Twitter account in two ways. Some people actually buy fake followers in an attempt to raise their own status. "The rates are so cheap you will be able to quickly boost your following figures and create a great first impression," one Twitter-follower merchant says. The "followers" are created by computers. If you're paying more than $10 for 1,000 mock Twitter followers, you're getting fleeced.

But spam bots are also flying around the Twitterverse—they follow accounts in hopes the accounts will reciprocate, allowing the bots to send them marketing messages directly. The bots are attracted to large accounts, which explains the president's counterfeit following. @ladygaga ("When POP sucks the tits of ART"), who leads all of Twitter with almost 32 million followers, also has a lot of fakers (just 26 percent "good" followers), as does the current Twitter runner-up, @justinbieber (31 million followers, 35 percent good).

The Vatican just announced that on December 12, Pope Benedict XVI will begin tweeting from a personal account, @pontifex. As the Pope spreads the good 140 characters, his tweets will be translated into eight languages. Perhaps he'll soon unseat @ladygaga, and his tweets undoubtedly will be infallible, but much of his following will be impure.

I've always wanted a larger Twitter following, and recently I acted on my wish. A cousin told me she had a Facebook friend who met a guy on Twitter—a Twitter-scalper who was dealing followers at less than face. But here's what really grabbed me: he was selling genuine followers. He said a mere five bucks would get me three people who'd follow me at least a year, guaranteed.

After a couple of direct messages, the fix was in. On a moonless night a week ago, I met the scalper in an alley between State and Wabash. I gave him an envelope with the cashola, and he stepped aside and revealed the followers. We all squeezed into a cab, and they've been staying at my place ever since. They've turned out to be a real pain in the ass, though—they have large appetites, and they follow me everywhere.

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