Local Westminster candidates are harnessing social media to build online fanbases and boost their popularity with some unexpected results.
Twitter users with monikers such as Video Chatroom Sexy, CrazyLady1932, Glitter Bomb Factory, James Cocaine, Nuclear Dildo Clown and Neymar’s Missus are now following Mid Ulster and South Tyrone’s MP candidates.
Commentators have suggested the May general election will be the first to be significantly determined by websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
If that’s the case, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew has gained an enviable head-start. The standing MP and influential political tweeter is Tyrone’s undisputed Queen of Twitter with 9,457 followers.
However, the Tyrone Times’ analysis of our politicians’ social media accounts reveal that they have developed unlikely fanbases with the UUP’s Tom Elliott boasting a flood of followers with monikers such as South Down Republican and Irish Republican Socialist, raising his numbers to 4,701 followers, the second highest account among the local Westminster candidates.
Standing Mid Ulster MP, Francis Molloy also appears to have crossed the widest of sectarian divides on Twitter with followers calling themselves Orange Man, British and Proud, and Intelligent Loyalist.
Moreover, the politicians’ accounts appear to be dramatically inflated by so-called ‘ghost followers’, with tons of their followers branded as fake according to an online tool which calculates the percentage of a user’s followers who are fake, inactive, or real.
Tom Elliott had the highest percentage of followers (24%) which did not correspond to real people after the Tyrone Times crunched the numbers with a downloadable social media app.
In addition, a further 32% of his online fans were deemed to be inactive users.
The next most dubious account belonged to Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew, with 18% of her followers classed as fake, and 33% as inactive, while party colleague MP Francie Molloy had 13% of his online fans classed as ‘ghost followers’.
UUP candidate for Mid Ulster Sandra Overend had 13% of her 3,305 followers classed as fake by the app, while the SDLP’s John Coyle had 9% fake and his party colleague Mid Ulster Malachy Quinn had just 6%, the lowest reading for any local candidate.
The accounts of the politicians may have been targeted by so-called spammers who generate fake accounts.