Are Magazines Pitching Phantom Twitter Followers?

Most followed magazines on Twitter as of 8-19-12 (click on the image to enlarge). Chart by Ron Matejko. View a PDF by clicking here.

Magazine publishers have long used slight-of-hand techniques to boost their circulation numbers in an effort to demand higher advertising rates. As the digital and social worlds have exploded and become part of an overall multimedia ad purchase, as well as key to magazine marketing efforts, other numbers have also taken on added importance.

One of those media channels is Twitter. It is common now for magazines to communicate with its followers via Twitter, with some magazines boasting more than 1,000,000 followers. In fact, a recent L2 Digital IQ survey was released, identifying the magazines that are the most successful in branding and promoting their title across multiple digital platforms, including Twitter.

A few days later, a Business Insider story revealed that a lot of popular Twitter accounts actually have a lot of fake and inactive followers as determined by a new social media management platform called StatusPeople. It turns out that people like Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and many others who boast eight-figure totals, actually have much smaller followings with oftentimes only 30 percent of those followers being real.

With the L2 report still fresh in my mind, I decided to review the 19 magazines that have at least one million followers, and run them through StatusPeople to see how many real and active followers they have.

The numbers were staggering as the tests revealed that as few as 27 percent of a magazine’s followers are active and real. This doesn’t necessarily reveal any wrongdoing by the brands, although there are services that offer the ability to purchase bots and boost your follower total.

However, at the least, publishers should realize they are reaching a much smaller audience through their Twitter accounts—and brands who partner with those titles aren’t receiving as much exposure as expected if Twitter is part of the campaign.

The results of the StatusPeople test are in the photo box to the right (click on it to enlarge), or click here to view the chart in PDF format.

Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.

MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.

MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at ron@mvptoday.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.

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