Twitter and the #Newt

As ubiquitous as Twitter is today, it sometimes helps to remember that it’s only been around since 2006. That means that the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama defeated John McCain, is the only one to have occurred in Twitter’s existence.

I remember how, in those days back in 2008, candidate Obama had a healthy presence in all of the social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, you name it. He never really extolled it in any way that I remember, but I remember being impressed with the way Obama embraced social networking. It seemed that he recognized its potential in a way that none of the other candidates did.

It’s now 2011, and another presidential election season is coming around the corner. President Obama is sitting at 11.5 million followers on Twitter, and has almost 25 million “likes” on Facebook. If a social media presence was all a candidate needed–and it most certainly is not–the election would be a runaway of historic proportions. But nobody is expecting that it will be that at all.

It is against this backdrop that Newt Gingrich made what amounts to a very laughable claim last Summer. He claimed that he had more followers than all of the other Republican candidates for president put together. According to his Twitter page, he has approximately 1.4 million followers. That’s far more than his opponents, but still just over 10% of the followers that President Obama has.

After the number of Twitter followers that a candidate has became an issue in the presidential campaign, the story came out last that more than 90% of his followers are not real. So I decided to do a bit of investigating on my own. If a candidate is going to crow about his Twitter followers, why not see if it’s legit? The man wants to run the country, after all.

The first tip-off to a fake Twitter account, in my view, is the lack of a photo to go with the user’s profile. Who doesn’t want to show their face to all of their tweeps, right? (it means Twitter peeps, if you couldn’t figure it out. But I’m sure it wasn’t hard to figure it out, either). No profile pic, no actual person behind the account, in my book.

So I scrolled down the page of Newt’s Twitter followers and came to @paulthebraniac. He has a Twitter account (but it doesn’t show up when you do a Twitter search for the name), a real name (Paul Arent, apparently), but no picture to show us what he looks like. He hasn’t yet sent out a tweet (not even of the “Testing. 1, 2, 3” variety), so apparently he’s kind of shy. He also follows two people (or two Twitter accounts, anyway). The first is @cspan, and the other is @newtgingrich. And that’s apparently all that matters to Paul in the world. I have to believe this is a fake Twitter account, because anyone who chooses to follow nothing other than C-SPAN and Newt Gingrich hasn’t got too much of a life, to begin with.

There are at least one million others who follow Newt Gingrich on Twitter. Hopefully all of them have a story associated with them, but I’m not going to go beyond the one I’ve pulled out here. And if you don’t have some doubts about the man already, this blog post probably hasn’t done anything to diminish his standing in your eyes. But for me, who would eat the keyboard I’m typing this out on before I would vote for Newt Gingrich, the case of @paulthebrainiac raises one more reason why his candidacy for the presidency can not be taken seriously.

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