Twitter Simplifies In Bid to Engage More Users
Twitter Simplifies In Bid to Engage More Users

Bill Werde ( http://twitter.com/#!/bwerde ) is Billboard's editorial director. This post was originally published on his Tumblr page over the weekend.

For those that follow me on Twitter, you know that last night's highlight was following @annkpowers live tweet a Rush #rockdoc. Tonight I took it to a whole other level of nerdiness. Intrigued by this week's reports of President Obama having a 70 percent inactive twitter following, I decided to dig into the music realm using the web app at http://fakers.statuspeople.com (SP) -- the same one used by myriad journalists to go after Barack.

First the methodology: I used the top twitter follower lists at http://twittercounter.com/pages/100 (TC) and only focused on musical artists. FYI, seven of the top 10 (and nine of top 12) Twitter followings are musicians. I ran each account through the StatusPeople app, producing a three number score. So, for example, @LadyGaga topped the TwitterCounter lists with 28,746,622 followers. According to StatusPeople, 31 percent of those are "fakes," and 40 percent are "inactive" leaving 29 percent as "active" followers. A little quick math and her active follower total is actually 8,336,520. For the purposes of sharing all my numbers crunching in a neat orderly list, I represent that as:

Lady Gaga's Active Followers
Rank Twitter Handle Total Followers % Fake/Inactive/Active Total Active Followers
1 @LadyGaga 28,746,622 31/40/29 8,336,520

Let me say up front that all of this, obviously, is imperfect science. I basically just wanted to run everyone through the StatusPeople app, establish some norms, and see if I could catch any outliers. Ultimately, I observed a few things that I found interesting.

1. There wasn't a ton of deviation near the top. Of the 15 music accounts that TC listed with more than 10 million followers, almost all were a few points north or south of a 30/40/30 breakdown. Only @shakira was an outlier here, with a rather gnarly 43/31/16. I did notice that the only other two accounts in the top 40 TC musicians that saw "fake" scores of 40 or above were also Latin: Brazilian singer @ivetesangalo and Spanish singer-songwriter @alejandrosanz. Maybe there is something particular to the Latin demo that attracts more bots? It didn't hold true for @pitbull @jlo or @ricky_martin but those three have also had far more mainstream Anglo success.

2. I only found one major outlier, and that was @iamdiddy. The 27th most followed musical artist on Twitter with 7,762,054 followers, according to SP, a full 68 percent of his followers were identified as fake, with another 17 percent inactive, leaving him only 15 percent active followers. Looking at the top 40 Twitter followings, I couldn't find another artist with a fake percentage above 43. And most of the "fakest" accounts were around 33-36 percent. Maybe this means Diddy has been a bad boy (okay, sorry, just couldn't help it) on Twitter. But I will say again, there do seem to be some bugs with StatusPeople. The app returned @Juanes, for example, as 100 percent of his 2 million+ followers being fake. Then again, this was the only (seemingly obvious) bug I found.

3. The best ratio of the top 10 musicians belonged to @nickiminaj with 34 percent active. The best in the top 20, by far, was @drake's 46 percent active. Others coming close were @chrisbrown at 37 and, while not in the top 20 (he was 21) @kanyewest at 44 percent. But this does beg the question: If Drake and Kanye can have more than 8 million followers and keep their active base at around 50 percent, why do @ladygaga and @justinbieber and the rest of the top 10 musical acts only have 30 percent active bases? Are they buying follower bots to inflate their numbers? Or will one necessarily and unavoidably attract every spam bot in the world when you start to really scale the Everest of Twitter follow numbers?

Once I finished the Top 40 of TC, I hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, where I found a few surprises. Here's the artists behind this week's Top 10 songs on the Billbard Hot 100, along with their Twitter following and their SP breakdowns:

Billboard Hot 100 Top 10
Rank Twitter Handle Total Followers % Fake/Inactive/Active
1 @TaylorSwift13 17,816,750 30/40/30
2 @Official_Flo 1,046,423 21/43/36
3 @EllieGoulding 795,821 4/28/68
4 @CarlyRaeJepsen 2,482,556 22/37/41
5 @KatyPerry 25,547,332 37/41/22
6 @OurNameIsFun 200,607 5/30/65
7 @Maroon5 1,364,927 14/33/53
8 @JustinBieber 27,079,044 30/40/30
9 @Maroon5 See Above See Above
10 @DavidGuetta 5,914,891 26/39/35

What immediately jumps out to me were the 65 and 68 active scores for @ournameisfun and @elliegoulding respectively. Obviously much smaller followings than Bieber. but much bigger active percentages than many artists with similar sized followings.

Finally, this brings me to some top active follower scores found through random sampling:

Top Active Followers (Random Sampling)
Rank Twitter Handle Total Followers % Fake/Inactive/Active
1 @Frank_Ocean 1,394,216 4/19/77
2 @MumfordOfficial 184,452 7/25/68
3 @EdSheeran 3,065,540 10/30/60
4 @Radiohead 757,367 8/35/57
5 @Skrillex 1,856,168 14/35/51
6 @Springsteen 257,120 12/39/49

So in conclusion: This isn't strong science. But if these numbers are in the right ballpark, why can 60 percent of Ed Sheeran's 3 million+ followers be active, and so many other top stars with similar followings be so far away from that figure? Leads me to believe that maybe -- just maybe -- the music business may be doing something less than 100 percent transparent when it comes to marketing hit songs and artists. But come on. That just couldn't be true!

Kidding aside -- and lest anyone start bloviating about major label marketing tactics -- let me present the case of one @amandapalmer, seemingly every media outlet's go-to as the standard bearer (and probably rightly so!) for the sanctity of indie cred. Of her 610k Twitter followers, 34 percent are fake, according to SP, and 41 percent are inactive, leaving a 25 percent active user base. Gaga, Bieber, Rihanna and a host of other top stars beat this on the percentages.

By the way: @Barackobama got a raw deal in those articles, which uniformly noted that 70 percent of his following was inactive, but mostly avoided providing context. It turns out that, according to StatusPeople, only @KimKardashian has a more active Twitter follower base than the POTUS amongst the top 10 Twitter accounts. (Someone else can discuss how I've buried the lede with this detail). Don't hate the playa. Hate the game.

Charts and data:

Top Artists Ranked according to TwitterCounter.com, with StatusPeople scores and calculated active followers.

Top Artists Ranked according to TwitterCounter.com
Rank Twitter Handle Total Followers % Fake/Inactive/Active Total Active Followers
1 @LadyGaga 28,746,622 31/40/29 8,336,520
2 @JustinBieber 27,079,044 30/40/30 8,123,713
3 @KatyPerry 25,547,332 37/41/25 5,620,413
4 @Rihanna 24,729,010 34/41/25 6,182,253
5 @BritneySpears 19,756,556 35/41/24 4,741,573
6 @Shakira 17,967,289 43/31/16 2,874,766
7 @TaylorSwift13 17,816,750 30/40/30 5,345,025
8 @NickiMinaj 14,288,380 27/39/34 4,858,049
9 @JTimberlake 13,469,724 29/44/27 3,636,825
10 @SelenaGomez 12,444,492 23/44/33 4,106,682
11 @Eminem 12,147,434 25/40/35 4,251,602
12 @BrunoMars 11,587,419 21/34/35 4,055,597
13 @ChrisBrown 11,149,421 23/40/37 4,125,286
14 @JLo 10,673,100 32/44/24 2,561,544
15 @Pink 10,274,075 28/43/29 2,979,482
16 @SnoopDogg 9,995,045 30/38/32 3,198,414
17 @AliciaKeys 9,108,223 29/45/26 2,368,138
18 @OfficialAdele 8,981,924 27/42/31 2,784,396
19 @DDLovato 8,865,041 31/37/32 2,836,813
20 @Drake 8,742,968 18/36/46 4,021,765
21 @KanyeWest 8,370,313 19/37/44 3,682,938
22 @MileyCyrus 8,172,665 24/37/39 3,595,973
23 @Coldplay 8,124,510 24/39/37 3,006,069
24 @LilTunechi 8,070,615 20/39/41 3,308,952
25 @AshleyTisdale 7,821,316 20/49/31 2,424,608
26 @MariahCarey 7,779,008 20/50/30 2,333,702
27 @IAmDiddy 7,762,054 68/17/15 1,164,308
28 @RyanSeacrest 7,665,620 23/44/33 2,529,655
29 @RealWizKhalifa 7,315,038 15/34/51 3,730,669
30 @Ivetesangalo 6,924,679 40/44/16 1,107,949

Re-ranked according to active followers, below. I simply re-ordered the above lost and did not ad in new names. It seems pretty clear that, if I had, @iamdiddy and @ivetesangalo would have dropped way out of the top 30.

Top Artists Ranked Based On Active Followers
Rank Twitter Handle Total Followers % Fake/Inactive/Active Total Active Followers
1 @LadyGaga 28,746,622 31/40/29 8,336,520
2 @JustinBieber 27,079,044 30/40/30 8,123,713
3 @Rihanna 24,729,010 34/41/25 6,182,253
4 @Katy Perry 25,547,332 37/41/22 5,620,413
5 @TaylorSwift13 17,816,750 30/40/30 5,345,025
6 @NickiMinaj 14,288,380 27/39/34 4,858,049
7 @BritneySpears 19,756,556 35/41/24 4,741,573
8 @Eminem 12,147,434 25/41/35 4,251,602
9 @ChrisBrown 11,149,421 23/40/37 4,125,286
10 @SelenaGomez 12,444,492 23/44/33 4,106,682
11 @BrunoMars 11,587,419 21/34/35 4,055,597
12 @Drake 8,742,968 18/36/46 4,021,765
13 @RealWizKhalifa 7,315,038 15/34/51 3,730,669
14 @KanyeWest 8,370,313 19/37/44 3,682,938
15 @JTimberlake 13,469,724 29/44/27 3,636,825
16 @MileyCyrus 8,172,665 24/37/39 3,595,973
17 @LilTunechi 8,070,615 20/39/41 3,308,952
18 @SnoopDogg 9,995,045 30/38/32 3,198,414
19 @Coldplay 8,124,510 24/39/37 3,006,069
20 @Pink 10,274,075 28/43/29 2,979,482
21 @Shakira 17,967,289 43/31/16 2,874,766
22 @DDLovato 8,865,041 31/37/32 2,836,813
23 @OfficialAdele 8,981,924 27/42/31 2,784,396
24 @JLo 10,673,100 32/44/24 2,561,544
25 @RyanSeacrest 7,665,620 23/44/33 2,529,655
26 @AshleyTisdale 7,821,316 20/49/31 2,424,608
27 @AliciaKeys 9,108,223 29/45/26 2,368,138
28 @MariahCarey 7,779,008 20/50/30 2,333,702
29 @IAmDiddy 7,762,054 68/17/15 1,164,308
30 @Ivetesangalo 6,924,679 40/44/16 1,107,949