30 per cent of Premier League followers are fake

Is popularity the best measure of success? Maybe in some cases, but in the world of social media it’s fraught with problems.

Following on from my last blog, I decided to look at the follower numbers of Premier League clubs in a bit more detail. Is this particular vanity metric everything it seems?

Fake followers are an increasing problem. The black market for them is worth an estimated $360 million a year. Unsurprisingly websites have began to spring up to help users monitor their own dodgy fans.


Fake followers are big business

With the help of statuspeople.com, and because I had nothing better to do with my Monday night, I set about finding out the percentage of fake followers each club has. It is worth pointing out that the clubs in question probably haven’t acquired these followers in an underhand way, but have been targeted by bots because of their popularity.

The results are as follows:

Followers Fake Inactive Active
Arsenal 2,672,000 43% 32% 25%
Aston Villa 203,000 31% 35% 34%
Cardiff City 65,000 17% 35% 48%
Chelsea 2,676,000 37% 30% 33%
Crystal Palace 57,000 18% 40% 42%
Everton 242,000 30% 38% 32%
Fulham 163,000 32% 42% 26%
Hull City 50,000 20% 40% 40%
Liverpool 1,941,000 31% 31% 38%
Manchester City 1,151,000 38% 33% 29%
Manchester Utd 872,000 30% 27% 43%
Newcastle United 284,000 32% 39% 29%
Norwich City 142,000 28% 42% 30%
Southampton 141,000 29% 39% 32%
Stoke City 135,000 30% 42% 28%
Sunderland 162,000 34% 44% 22%
Swansea City 154,000 26% 38% 36%
Tottenham 630,000 31% 37% 32%
West Bromwich Albion 96,000 27% 41% 32%
West Ham United 212,000 29% 40% 31%

It’s pretty apparent fake followers are a problem for all clubs to some degree. On average clubs have 602,400 followers, 30 per cent of which are duff.

Is this a big problem for clubs? Fake followers do nothing for credibility, however football teams are in a privileged position compared to other brands. The damage probably isn’t as severe for those as it is others, however it has repercussions on engagement particularly when tallied with the number of dead accounts. Take Arsenal, who can boast over 2,672,000 followers, but only 25 per cent of those are active. Only 668,000 people are getting the message.

And, of course, this exercise just further highlights the folly of putting so much stock in this sort of metric. Followers mean little if your content isn’t engaging, but they mean even less if a third of them don’t exist either.

One response to “30 per cent of Premier League followers are fake

  1. Really interesting that even the smaller teams have a large number of fake followers. When you say ‘targetted because of their popularity’ do you mean with the apparent intent of making the fake accounts show up as being similar to other fans of the same club on the recommendations page?

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