Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich might not be able to buy votes, but he might be able to buy Twitter followers. That’s the accusation made by a former Gingrich campaign staffer, who accused Gingrich of hiring several “follow agencies” to bulk up the number of his Twitter followers.
“About 80 percent of Gingrich’s 1.3 million followers are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various follow agencies,” the former staffer told Gawker.
“Another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves… and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich.”
The accusation comes three weeks after a lengthy article in Politico that praised the former Speaker of the House for his innovative use of Twitter to reach out to the public, citing his “personal touch” and “fun to read” tweets as reasons for his massive following. Whereas other politicians tend to tweet snippets of press releases and stump speeches, Gingrich jokes and replies candidly to his followers.
Politico gives an example of when a Twitter follower asked Gingrich if he believed in dinosaurs, to which he replied, “Not only do I believe in dinosaurs I had a t rex skull in speakers office to remind us they used to think they were important too.”
Despite the charismatic persona Gingrich conveys on Twitter, a quick run through of his Twitter followers does raise eyebrows. Many of his followers have no tweets, no picture, and no bio but follow several people, characteristics of “fake” accounts created by agencies that promise to build up your following for a price, ranging from $139 for 10,000 followers to $3,000 for 100,000 followers.
However, the blog on HotAir.com says that the reason for Gingrich’s Twitter popularity is because he was one of the first Republican politicians on Twitter’s “suggested person” list, which recommends people to follow.
According to the HotAir.com post, “Back in 2009, it was estimated that being on the Suggested User list could quickly get you about 500,000 followers. It has to have increased since then. Newt Gingrich was on that list for a long time.”
In a political climate where social media reputation is so important and campaign costs are so high, investing a few thousand dollars to make a candidate appear hip and modern could be considered a steal. But Gingrich could be given the benefit of the doubt because not only is he obviously adept at online communication, he’s one of the most active politicians on the internet.
Despite tweeting more often than any other GOP (Gingrich has tweeted 2,698 times at the time of writing, versus 779 for Michele Bachmann and 504 for Mitt Romney) he’s a prolific book reviewer on Amazon.com. His Amazon account lists his review total at 156, some very lengthy, on subjects ranging from history and crime to popular fiction.
Despite the Twitter accusations, Gingrich hasn’t shied away from the social media network at all. In fact, Gingrich campaign spokesman, R.C. Hammond has tweeted a denial: @NewtGingrich 1.3 million followers are legitimate. @Gawker 's "source" is not. Story untrue.”