30 per cent of Premier League followers are fake

3 September 2013, 17:09

Is popularity the best measure of success? Maybe in some cases, but in the world of social media it’s fraught with problems.

Following on from my last blog, I decided to look at the follower numbers of Premier League clubs in a bit more detail. Is this particular vanity metric everything it seems?

Fake followers are an increasing problem. The black market for them is worth an estimated $360 million a year. Unsurprisingly websites have began to spring up to help users monitor their own dodgy fans.

Fake followers are big business.

Fake followers are big business.

With the help of statuspeople.com, and because I had nothing better to do with my Monday night, I set about finding out the percentage of fake followers each club has. It is worth pointing out that the clubs in question probably haven’t acquired these followers in an underhand way, but have been targeted by bots because of their popularity.

The results are as follows:

FollowersFakeInactiveActive
Arsenal2,672,00043%32%25%
Aston Villa203,00031%35%34%
Cardiff City65,00017%35%48%
Chelsea2,676,00037%30%33%
Crystal Palace57,00018%40%42%
Everton242,00030%38%32%
Fulham163,00032%42%26%
Hull City50,00020%40%40%
Liverpool1,941,00031%31%38%
Manchester City1,151,00038%33%29%
Manchester Utd872,00030%27%43%
Newcastle United284,00032%39%29%
Norwich City142,00028%42%30%
Southampton141,00029%39%32%
Stoke City135,00030%42%28%
Sunderland162,00034%44%22%
Swansea City154,00026%38%36%
Tottenham630,00031%37%32%
West Bromwich Albion96,00027%41%32%
West Ham United212,00029%40%31%

It’s pretty apparent fake followers are a problem for all clubs to some degree. On average clubs have 602,400 followers, 30 per cent of which are duff.

Is this a big problem for clubs? Fake followers do nothing for credibility, however football teams are in a privileged position compared to other brands. The damage probably isn’t as severe for those as it is others, however it has repercussions on engagement particularly when tallied with the number of dead accounts. Take Arsenal, who can boast over 2,672,000 followers, but only 25 per cent of those are active. Only 668,000 people are getting the message.

And, of course, this exercise just further highlights the folly of putting so much stock in this sort of metric. Followers mean little if your content isn’t engaging, but they mean even less if a third of them don’t exist either.

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