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What’s In A Twitter Following?

There have been a number of stories in the news recently involving Twitter and political figures. GOP 2012 hopeful Newt Gingrich has boasted of having six times the Twitter followers of all the other GOP candidates combined. For the sake of comparison, Newt has over 1 million followers while Lady Gaga has over 12 million. But what exactly do those numbers mean? For someone trying to establish high numbers, such a political candidate or a pop star, they don’t worry too much about their message getting out. They just want followers.

Building a huge following is like screaming into the Grand Canyon. There’s plenty of space but is anyone really listening? In the case of Gabrielle Giffords, CSPAN announcers were listening. I was watching live when the announcer’s voice broke in to explain why thunderous applause had suddenly erupted on the floor of the House. Her triumphant return to the House floor had been announced on Twitter just minutes before she appeared to cast her vote on raising the debt ceiling. That quickly sparked rumors about her possible run for re-election.

Political campaign donors are looking to bet on a sure thing. A large number of followers can be one way to measure popularity.
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