This week, Twitter decided to remove known bots from people’s follower counts, much to the surprise of some of its more famous users like Stephen Fry, who lost 400,000 of his followers.

Publicis Media’s SocialTools platform tracks the top 37,000 brands on Twitter. We had a look at the drop to see what we could learn:

1) The average brand didn’t lose many followers

Twitter claims to have deleted 6% of accounts in this purge. But if your brand’s social media team is sending a self-congratulatory round robin email about how they lost ‘only’ 3% of followers, someone should have a word. Brand accounts on average lost just 1.42% of their followers.

2) Where there’s money, there’s bots

In general, we see lots of bots working in categories where there is money to be made by Tweeting brand content - either those areas where influencers are being paid based on their follower accounts (Apparel, Beauty), or where there are trackable affiliate and voucher programs (consumer electronics, personal goods).

Source: Publicis Media

3) Some influencers have not been influencing very many actual human beings

We are shocked (Shocked!) to discover that ‘Influencers’ have been buying fake followers.

Of the accounts tracked by SocialTools that lost more than half of their followers, 45% were ‘influencers’. That included one self-described ‘Social media guru’ from Pakistan who lost over 330,000 followers.

4) South-East Asia and the Mediterranean are top spots for bots

Looking at countries where we track over 100 branded Twitter accounts, South-East Asian countries appear 3 times in the top 5, while Italy leads the table with 4% of brand followers disappearing in the cull.

Source: Publicis Media

What can we learn from this? A lesson in simplicity

Although Twitter has the reputation for being riddled with bots, it has the advantage of being a great deal more transparent than the other digital networks. We simply don’t know how many bots there are on Facebook, Instagram, Google and the rest.

This simple fact ensures that digital metrics are a work in progress, and marketers should aim to reduce complexity wherever possible. When even something as simple as a follower count has multiple definitions, there are limits to what you can learn from the (literally) hundreds of metrics offered by Facebook,Twitter and Google.

Track your digital spend on the simplest metrics possible, because everything else changes all the time.

(Oh, and if you’re working with influencers, do it through a respectable agency or MCN. It’s a jungle out there).

A note on the data

The accounts deleted are known bots, most of which Twitter suspended years ago, but didn’t delete from users’ follower counts. SocialTools tracks publically available data from 180,000 brand and influencer social media accounts, obtained via APIs from Twitter, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.

The data is from the period 1st-15th July, and we have removed from the figures brands that seemed to be rapidly gaining followers over this period, in order to prevent this growth skewing the data.


This article first appeared on Mediatel.

Author: Sam Bueno De Mesquita,  Senior Content Strategy Director, Zenith