David Cunliffe has just announced that he wont be seeking re-election as the leader of the Labour Party. he held a stand up at his New Lynn office at 2pm. Just before it kicked off I got a tip off that his twitter account had gone on a following spree. I also saw the following tweet:
What one person defines as a following spree may not be what someone else deems to be a following spree. Now trying to nail down how many accounts he has followed is not easy. It isn’t something that Twitter really tracks. But there are a number of third party methods available. I firstly checked Twitter Counter:
But I am not totally sure how accurate that site is in relation when follows/unfollows happened. So I check it against my own stats. On the evening of the 8th I went on a rather large unfollow spree. Culling out all the dross like dead accounts and MPs who had left parliament.
My Twitter Counter reflects this pretty well, with a slight shift for time zones.
So it looks like Twitter Counter is pretty accurate. But to be doublely sure I thought I would check it against another source. My own data. Every week, around 7-9pm I collect data on how many tweets MPs accounts have sent, how many tweets they have favourited, how many accounts follow them and how many accounts they follow. This is the data I use to build the Twitter Stats posts each week. So I checked how many accounts David followed on Friday when I last gathered data:
Vs what Twitter tells me he currently follows:
Result is 984 new accounts followed since Friday evening. Which matches pretty closely with Twitter Counter. It also falls into the “following spree” category pretty well.
The question though has to be why? It is one thing that I have noticed about the Labour account and David Cunliffe. They both seem to follow a lot of accounts. If you look at John Key’s account, it follows less than 2500 accounts. The National Party account follows just over 1000 people. Even the Greens account, one that is know for being highly interactive only follows just over 1000 accounts. Looking at the other members of the Labour caucus on Twitter, David is the only MP who has more than a 1000 followers who also follows pretty much the same number of accounts. The only other MP whose account seems to follow a similar pattern is Nikki Kaye, whose account follows 11531 people, but is followed by just 10814. David is on record as saying that his account follows anyone who follows it or mentions it:
But that doesn’t really explain the massive follow spree minutes before his press conference. Nor does it explain why they do that. This habit has been something that has been sitting at the back of my mind for months, trying to figure out the why of it. I initially thought it might be related to some form of crude sentiment analysis, but that doesn’t seem right. There are plenty of other ways to do that that do not involve following thousands of accounts. It could be a way to try and lift his number of followers by following people hoping they follow back. But that just comes across as a bit desperate. Plenty of other MPs achieve good followings without resorting to this measure.
One explanation that I can think of that explains this is if they are using information gleaned from social media in their voter tracking software. I don’t know how Labour’s voter tracking software works, but it is possible that they are using the data they can gather from the people the David Cunliffe and Labour follow to help bulk out their voter tracking software. This is just a theory, but it is one that would fit with them following so many people.
However it is still interesting that those running David’s account felt the need to follow 900+ people minutes before he pulls out of the race for leader of the Labour Party. I suspect when David gets shuffled to the back bench we will see less and less of him on Twitter. Unless he plans on using it to destablise the new leader? He does have 14,000 followers after all, which is more than any other Labour MP, bar Jacinda Ardern. Unless the account is going to be kept as the Labour leader’s account and David has to start from scratch again…