This headline is a generalisation designed to grab your attention. Is is 100% correct? No, but we've been seeing a lot of that lately. Last week, the media stated that, based on a report by Socialbakers, 52% of Justin Bieber´s 37 million follower base on Twitter is fake or inactive. We'd just like to clarify that we never published a report and that this wasn't a PR stunt from our end.
The media coverage ensued spontaneously after some journalists tried out our Fake Follower Check Tool (BETA), and unfortunately, the results were taken out of context. They portrayed Justin Bieber's followers as “fake” and we'd like to make things clear – this is not the case. A certain part of Justin Bieber's followers are empty accounts rather than fake, which he is not responsible for. This mainly occurs when someone creates a Twitter account and is forced to follow a minimum of 10 people.
We’ve always been very open about our methodology, however this time, sadly, it seems in some cases it was more convenient to overlook it. It clearly states that we categorize followers in three ways:
- Fake or empty
Each of these categories is defined by criteria we’ve listed in the methodology section of our Fake Followers site, which states that the results are based on a random sample of 2 000 followers. Statistically, this is an extremely low number, considering that Justin Beiber’s account has 37 500 000 followers. The numbers can slightly vary based on the smaller sample, but reflect the reality – yes, he does have fake or empty followers. But which one is it, really?
With the above information taken into account, the vast majority of the media coverage does not accurately reflect the true state of Justin Bieber's account. Since the issue has already gone viral, I'd like to set things straight.
When analyzing a celebrity Twitter account in the Fake follower Check tool, it’s important to consider that other celebrities within the same follower size show similar results. Also, consider that the Fake Follower tool is currently a beta and that the tool analyzes only 2 000 followers at a time. This figure may not always act as a representative sample – especially when it deals with a large number of followers, as is the case with Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry etc. When we looked at the data for Justin Bieber, we found out that:
- 31% were fake or empty
- 17% were inactive
- 52% were OK
Justin Bieber’s Followers are Empty not Fake
The data shows that the main reason that his followers qualify as “fake or empty” is because of accounts that are following less than 50 people and have less than one follower. We saw that 17% of his followers are considered “inactive” is because they have less than three tweets. In summary, 44.5% of all the analyzed followers either had less than 1 follower (while following less than 50 people) or had less than 3 tweets. This means that more of his “fake followers” are, in fact, “empty and inactive” than “fake”.
Why does Justin Bieber have so many “empty” followers? This is how an empty follower may looks like: imagine that your mom is on Twitter, she follows you and a few other accounts she is interested in. She isn’t a very active tweeter and doesn’t spend much time gathering followers. Our algorithm would label her as a fake or empty user. This means that not every “empty” follower is “fake” – some accounts are simply inactive or abandoned.
In my opinion, most of these specific accounts belonging to Biebers´ followers are abandoned. These fans created a Twitter account just to gain access to his updates and tweets and they consume them passively, without engaging in the Twitter sphere. I´m guessing that only a small proportion of these followers are actually fake.
The fact is, that Justin Bieber has a very active audience on Twitter. His audience is so active, that I even said in a Tweet 2 months ago, that “Socialbakers can measure everything, except Justin Bieber”. Of course it was meant as a joke, not related to the fake follower check. Just to clarify, Justin Bieber has thousands of interactions per second following his tweets. His Twitter audience is very active, far from the “fake” pictured by the media.
The Story Lies in The Registration Process of Twitter
The question still remains as to why newly created accounts follow so many celebrities? This could be down to a step in the registration process. When you create a Twitter account, you are asked to “Start by following 5" accounts. Twitter then prompts the user to “Choose a category and follow another,” and the first category happens to be “Musicians”. This would automatically inflate then number of celebrity followers, which would then be recognized as “fake or empty” in our tool.
Here’s the one important fact to consider: Twitter has a registration process that drives a huge follower base to big verified accounts like the ones belonging to celebrities. As a result, bigger profiles are more likely to have inactive, empty, or even fake followers to some extent. The story really is not that "Justin Bieber has fake followers”.
Last but not least, we’re happy for any media to use our data, that’s what socialbakers.com is here for! For media requests, please contact us us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are more than happy to help you interpret our data in a speedy fashion, identify interesting angles, and provide you with more information and insights.