In all of our reports, social media serves as one of the four primary components of the Digital IQ Index research methodology. In addition to site, digital marketing and mobile, social media — which takes into account community size, engagement, geo-localized content, and hundreds of other data points on both established and emerging platforms — plays a significant role in how we determine overall digital competence. In other words, to earn a Genius or Gifted ranking in one of our studies, a brand must do all of social media and do it all well.

 

What social media success looks like, however, isn’t always obvious. With so many newer platforms gaining influence in nuanced ways (and others, like Facebook, slipping in stature), not to mention authoritative voices arguing against traditional metrics (e.g., number of ‘likes’, number of Twitter followers) as the most important measures, determining who the digital geniuses are requires more sophisticated investigation. In our Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail study, released last week, we made use of a new tool from Status People that, with some significant limitations, helps discern between fake and inactive Twitter followers and real, engaged followers. Using a tool like this one allows us to now look at brands ranked by their overall number of followers (as we’ve always done in the past), as well as calculate a modified ranking that shows a more “real” representation of the size of these Twitter communities.

 

To illustrate how different these two analyses can turn out, look below at the 10 largest specialty retailers’ Twitter communities before using the Status People tool:

 

And then after:

 

 

Using Status People, we were able to determine that, on average, 18 percent of the study’s 76 retailers’ followers are fake. Because this tool has limited accuracy with accounts as large as those analyzed in the report, we cannot fully rely on these results. However, even in its limited capacity, it is staggering that a brand like Victoria’s Secret, which experienced 566 percent growth in its Twitter community between 2011 and 2012, could have a 25 percent fake and 39 percent inactive following. Inactive Tweeters, Twitter reps were quick to point out last week amidst a flood of media on the subject, should not be treated the same as their fake counterparts. Plenty of real people — real consumers who buy the brands they follow — use Twitter solely for its input, not for output; to discount their influence in the brand’s community would be misleading.

 

This is true, but all it takes is one quick glance at any Twitter account out there, be it a brand’s or a celebrity’s or a regular person’s, and the sheer number of bots in the “follower” section lends credence to the point that Status People’s tool tries to make: you can’t take all numbers at face value.

 

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