Social media is big, and with old media embracing it we’ve seen local media in particular pump their social media follower count like it’s the new ratings standard. We’ve had iPad giveaways, vacation getaway giveaways, viewers of the day, even car giveaway entries in exchange for a like or a follow on Twitter and Facebook. But one can also outright buy followers if they knew where to look. Some of us even get spammed daily with offers for “Real following Twitter followers”.
Enter two days ago, when a tipster alerted me to WPLG’s Twitter account @WPLGLocal10 and how fast they were gaining followers. They were literally adding 1,000+ followers per hour. Shortly after a few others emailed SFLTV about it, even viewers who found it humorous they’re being followed and unfollowed by WPLG on Twitter.
And all of this happening on a really slow news day, with not much happening. People we talked to alleged WPLG bought Twitter followers. Now, ever since the social media giveaways started I added every single local media account to a service where I can track their growth and get alerts daily and weekly with trends and number of followers that’s how I was able to create those social media ratings posts from a while back. So using that let’s have a look at the last 3 days of @WPLGLocal10. You can draw your own conclusions.
Analyzing the public data
In all of September 2015, the month of the #LoveLocal10 promotion, WPLG gained exactly 7,249 followers in all 30 days. Between September 7 and 20th @WPLGLocal10 account followed 17,387 users then unfollowed 15,437 accounts on the 20th, our best guess for this discrepancy would be that they were following back viewers as the #LoveLocal10 event was happening then unfollowed a whole bunch of them. That’s just best guess on our part.
As you can see, the blue followers line gradually goes up during September, from 26,720 followers on September 1st to 33,969 on September 30th. No spikes or aberations. All throughout the month @WPLGLocal10 rarely added more than 150 followers daily. Actually, on most days they added less than 100 followers.
And below, the follower graph during the first 8 days of October compared to the whole month of September. Al Gore would be envious of that hockey stick.
To break it down, on October 6th 2015 @WPLGLocal10 had 34,852 followers and followed 18,947. On that day it gained 2,437 followers. The next day however, October 7th, it gained 38,470 followers while unfollowing 11,934 accounts. On October 8th @WPLGLocal10 added another 10,008 followers reaching around 83,330 followers and that’s when everything tapered off.
So who’s following @WPLGLocal10?
According to a quick analysis of @WPLGLocal10 followers by segment using Followerwonk:
- 50,254 or 60.2% have 1 to 49 followers
- 9,523 or 11.4% have no followers at all
- 25,740 or 30.8% have never sent out a single tweet
- 24,078 or 28.9% have not tweeted in at least 1 year
Quick look through some of the follower account data there are pages and pages of accounts with names like @wLMetsuboF6, @P1robertr4836x1 and so on.
As I gathered information for this post I ran across a curious tweet from one of WPLG’s real followers who wondered why he was followed then unfollowed. Someone @WPLGLocal10 replied that it was a “brief unfollow of passion”. Going back to the data, we can see that was October 7th, the day @WPLGLocal10 unfollowed 11,934 accounts.
All told in the span of less than 3 days WPLG added an extra 48,478 followers most of whom either have no location or if they do thousands aren’t even in South Florida.