The spikes were first noticed by Zach Green of 140elect.com, a blog which monitors Twitter trends relating to the 2012 presidential election.
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According to Green's data, Romney "was gaining around 3000-4000 new followers per day for the past month," then his account suddenly got 23,926 new followers on Friday, 93,054 on Saturday and 25,432 on Sunday:
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Green's analysis indicates that Romney hasn't seen a noticeable uptick in other metrics, such as mentions, which would suggest Romney was getting these followers organically:
Green suggested that somebody else may have bought the new followers for Romney to embarrass the campaign.
Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director, has denied buying Twitter followers. Moffatt has in the past stressed that his strategy revolves around targeted engagement and not simply accumulating massive numbers of new followers. Buying fake followers doesn't mesh well with that approach (plus, follower totals mean very little for politicians if real voters aren't interacting with the message being sent).
However, some Twitter users believe the Romney campaign itself is responsible:
— Sarcastic Liberal(@SarcastLiberal) July 22, 2012
Troubling reports that Romney has millions of Twitter followers hidden in Switzerland & the Caymans waiting to be unleashed. #MoreFakeMitt
— Todd Mecklem (@ToddMecklem) July 21, 2012
— Shoq Value (@Shoq) July 21, 2012
This isn't the first time a presidential candidate has been accused of buying fake followers. Last summer, an ex-staffer for Newt Gingrich alleged that many of Gingrich's followers were purchased from following agencies.
A PeekAnalytics report found that 8% of Gingrich's Twitter followers were individuals, as opposed to businesses or spam accounts (average Twitter users have 30-60% real followers according to that report).
Vincent Harris, who served as digital consultant for Gingrich, never confirmed the allegations and recently made the following plea regarding Romney's new followers:
Those attacking Romney campaign for Twitter issue should hold and let @zacmoffat respond before jumping to conclusions
— Vincent Harris (@VincentHarris) July 21, 2012
Mashable has reached out to the Romney campaign and Twitter for additional comment, and we'll update this post when we hear back.
This story originally published on Mashable here.