In the last few weeks, a few news stories appeared about various political candidates and just how "real" their Twitter followers are. In this Business Insider story, 51% of New Jersey Governor and presidential hopeful candidate Chris Christie's followers were deemed to be real. Secretary Hillary Clinton's Twitter status started the conversation initially, as she has just 65% real followers. Clinton actually has the Phillies beat; the Phillies come in at 64% real followers.
According to Twitter Audit, the service used to track Clinton's and Christie's numbers, followers of the Phillies official account are only about two-thirds real:
A quick review of the followers of the Phillies account includes many followers with "Twitter egg" profile pictures, and several non-English languages.
The Phillies are not alone among Major League Baseball teams in having fake followers. According to the same service, the New York Yankees have 913,876 real followers, while 604,190 are fake. The Boston Red Sox Red Sox are reported as having 710,294 real followers and 372,472 fake followers.
The Toronto Blue Jays have the worst record: 65% of their users are fake: 496,671 are real, while 607,043 Fake.
The Phillies have the fourth-most followers on Twitter of Major League Baseball teams, behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.
But before casting a finger at the teams, there could be an explanation as to why Major League Baseball teams attract a large number of followers. When signing up for Twitter, the service prompts users to begin following accounts. Besides the big-name politicians and big celebrities, Twitter prompts new users to like professional sports franchises as part of the sign-up process.
With companies using bots to make accounts so that people may "buy" followers, it makes sense that those bots would be trained to like some professional sports franchises along the way. So, the Phillies probably did not purchase any followers, but instead are the victim of the follower-buying craze.
This is why the results are rather consistent among the big-name MLB franchises and why the Phillies have such a large percentage of fake followers. If there is any criticism against the Phillies it is that they do not interact with the fans enough. Five Thirty Eight Sports put together a report of Social Media use among all teams.
With 720,000 interactions, the Phillies are very behind the 2.560 million interactions the Blue Jays get, even with the large number of fake followers.
The Phillies were also the only team to show a decrease in Facebook fans. This could be because the Phillies were very active on social media and peaked among their most successful years from 2008 through 2011. This could also be because Facebook seeks regularly to remove fake "likes".
The one way to avoid these fake followers: protect tweets and selectively accept people that are legitimate. But, who has time for that?