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Waxman vs. Roske Campaign Twitter Wars - Who's Winning?

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(Rep. Henry Waxman and Congressional candidate Brent Roske's twitter counts on 9/25/2013)

I was just told by my web guy that I now have more Twitter followers than Rep. Henry Waxman. Hooray! I'm winning the campaign!

Really?

Let's look closer. Right now I have 2,619 followers, against Waxman's 2,578. Both of these counts are actually very low - Senator Harry Reid has over 130k - but you'll notice that my account 'follows' 2,868, while Rep. Waxman's account only follows 168. This means that my twitter account is actually running a deficit. I 'follow' more than 'follow' me. How embarrassing!

When I was approached and told that I could overpass Rep. Waxman's account in a matter of days, I asked how they would do it. 'We'll follow politically active people's accounts and most will follow back. That's the quickest way to get your count up with real people instead of twit-bots or fakes".

For those that don't know (and count yourself one of the lucky ones if you haven't spent too much time on all this), a twit-bot is fake account designed usually to sell things surreptitiously (here is an in-depth look at this practice from HuffPost writer Bianca Bosker).

You can also hire services that will get you thousands of 'followers' in a matter of hours, but they're all fake accounts created by click-farms designed solely to get your numbers up. These are easy to spot when you see a Twitter user who follows hundreds or even thousands of accounts but hardly publishes tweets or they are nonsensical. Mitt Romney had a small kerfuffle during his campaign when he got a sudden surge in new followers. This from NBC News:

Over 24 hours starting July 21, the presumptive Republican nominee acquired nearly 117,000 followers -- an increase of about 17 percent. Such a large and rapid increase was immediately noted by bloggers and Twitter commentators.

Buying Twitter followers and retweets isn't a new phenomenon; other politicians and public figures have inflated their accounts by such means. Meanwhile, it is nearly impossible for a popular Twitter account to verify its many followers as legitimate persons.

Barracuda Labs decided to look closely at the data, as part of a larger investigation of purchased Twitter followers. After analyzing Romney's 152,966 newest followers (as of July 26, when they collected the data), the conclusion was inescapable: A huge proportion of them were almost certainly fake.

I believe most of my 'followers' are in fact real people, but this note I received last week sums up our tactic of 'following' random accounts:

@Roy1Batty 17 Sep

@brentroske Not that I'm not grateful, but why is a Congressional candidate from California following a firefighter from Scotland?

Fair point, @Roy1Batty. Before I accepted the strategy I had 700 people I knew that were keeping tabs on my campaign through Twitter. That's not a lot - hardly any, really - but they were actual people who wanted to follow my campaign. But now, some would have you believe that I've BEATEN HENRY WAXMAN ON TWITTER! But that's crap- like most 'press-releases' during campaigns, just designed to get a blip of attention to keep the ball rolling. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the gamesmanship of trying to ride the ebb and flow of the digital ocean, catching currents and trends while subtly adding your sparkle of message to the wave. But does a speck of digital dust merit attention? Is this the new paradigm of not only political campaigns, but our purely digital interaction with each other? The Pope and the Mars Rover both have twitter accounts. I met the woman who writes the @MarsCuriosity twitter account at a party on Monday night. The Pope wasn't there.

Now that I've released this article, I've instructed the web guys to stop 'following' any more accounts and we'll let the Twitter number move along at its own speed, which will probably be very slowly. When I gave my announcement speech, a friend said "you're running in the age of 'Like'". What does it all mean? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Brent Roske is an Independent Congressional candidate for California's 33rd District. Learn more at RoskeForCongress.com