Anyone who’s been on Twitter for a while and has built a following occasionally wonders how many of them are real people; because plenty aren’t. So I took some measurements.
Methodology · For a little while, I routed all the “<someone> is now following you on Twitter!” emails into a folder, and when the count got to be up over 100, I went and sorted 100 new followers into baskets which I made up as I went along:
Real people: For better or for (sometimes much) worse, these accounts give the impression of being actual members of Homo sapiens who, implausible though it seems, may want to read my tweets. Note: I included everyone with protected tweets.
Read-me spammers: These are institutions not people: companies and football-club fan sites and German hotel networks. They all share a carefully-crafted little profile blurb about the wonderfulness of their organization. Since I don’t believe they want to read my 140-character chunks of deathless prose, I assume they exist for the purpose of getting me to read the little blurb; cheap advertising I suppose.
Interestingly, they tend to show up in bunches, which makes me think that some social-media vampire is batching up their clients.
Social-media whores: These are actual people it seems, with really great professional portraits on their profiles, who are going to tell you how to Do Social Media and Build Personal Brands and Leverage Traffic Flows. They follow thousands or tens of thousands, and each tweet is a perky inspiring call to action, or at least to sign up for a seminar.
Tough to tell: Just couldn’t figure out what it was about. Didn’t give the impression of being an actual person, but on the other hand might be an experiment or a useful bot or something.
Conclusion · The real-person ratio is a little higher than I thought it would be. Anyone who treats these numbers as if they were statistically respectable deserves what they get. All it’s safe to say is that during a few days of tweetflow, the number of actual real people among new followers was well over half.