Report: Top fighter Twitter followers up to 93% fake or inactive

April 24, 2013

When the UFC was born in 1993, and Mixed Martial Arts along with it, we were barely noticed by the mainstream press, and when we were noticed, we were despised. While MMA is now the world's fastest growing sport, the media can still be harsh. For example, to this day, anyone who commits a crime and has had as little as a single amateur fight is identified as a "cage fighter."

In New York, one of two states where the professional sport remains illegal (MMA remains woefully unregulated in far more states), newspapers and politicians are editorializing about it, with many taking the archaic and uniformed "human cockfighting" stance.

When the internet came up, it provided a means for professionals in the MMA space to connect directly with the fans and each other, without twisting from a media hungry for attention, and devoid of integrity. The Internet was all we had. As the now defunct Ultimate Athlete magazine put it “If not for the Underground forum … the sport might have died as PPV buy rates had sunk to such abysmal levels.”

The ability to reach out directly to fans reached a peak with Twitter, and the sport embraced it like no other.

In 2011, Zuffa officials rolled out a Twitter bonus program to all UFC and Strikeforce fighters. The fighters are divided into four separate categories based on the number of followers they have at the beginning of the scoring period. Cash prizes of $5,000 were awarded for most followers, biggest percentage growth in followers, and most creative, in the top four divisions.

Past winners included UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Demian Maia, among many others.

However, a study by Jason Genet's Ingrained media has concluded that in many cases, a high percentage of accounts were fake or inactive. Genet adds that "we are in no way saying that the accounts with large numbers of fake followers bought the follows or did anything nefarious to attain those follows."

As Real As It Gets, Except on Twitter

There has been a lot of talk about celebrities with fake Twitter followers and how their reach relates to actual influence. We have even blogged on the topic. So we decided to take a look at the UFC’s top athletes and Influencers to see how they compared. We also uncover the athlete with the most amount of fake or inactive followers.

We decided it was best to go by UFC’s own rankings (top 5) and include the Champions of each weight class. Then for balance we added in the UFC’s Dana White, Lorenzo Ferttia and for good measure Bellator’s Bjorn Rebney and UFC based journalists.  Last and surely not least we wanted to see who had the most fake followers.

Some of you may be asking why we did not list any of the UFC athletes represented by our firm? We used the champions and top five athletes in each weight class. The answer is, unfortunately none of them made the cut (ouch). You will notice that some of the athletes that are listed that do not have Twitter accounts (that we could find).

The data we did find is very interesting. It’s common to gauge Twitter influence by how many followers you have.  The advertising industry is more interested in the true reach of each account.   They’re most interested in the number of actual people, active in social media that follow the account.

We are in no way saying that the accounts with large numbers of fake followers bought the follows or did anything nefarious to attain those follows.  Follows from fake accounts can happen for a myriad of reasons. And just because a follow is now inactive or fake does not mean they were not once ready and willing to be engaged or that the athlete bought the follow.

What does a “fake” account look like?

Meet “Jama Fastic”:

Jama Fastic is a fake Twitter follower. This account has never tweeted, retweeted, engages with anyone, and can’t be identified as a real human being or company in any way shape or form. You can also tell that Jama Fastic is a fake account when you look at some of the 51 accounts Jama follows:
· Justin Bieber
· LeBron James
· Katy Perry
· Jack Dorsey
· Sofia Vergara
· Ellen DeGeneres
· Barack Obama
· Leonardo DiCaprio
· Sarah Silverman
· Ryan Seacrest
· Justin Timberlake
· Lil Wayne
· Oprah Winfrey
· Kelly Rowland

For Jama every single follow is a celebrity. Why would someone create an account and follow these particular individuals? What do they have in common?  Clearly there is a baseline of these types of accounts targeting MMA athletes.

This is the type of account we classified as a fake follower. It also reveals another source of fake followers - some high profile accounts just get followed as a way to automatically make a fake follower account seem real - they weren't bought but they are still very fake.

You might be also asking why did we add promoters and a few UFC Media members? One, they are also influencers in the sport and two, we felt they balanced the athletes and give you another view of the data of influencers with similar platforms.

Let us know what you think about the results in the comments and if you have anyone not on the list that you would like us to process please post it and we will try to gather the data for you.

Top Five MMA Influencers with the most fake followers
1. UFC Heavyweight Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) follower bBreakdown:
followers 566,458
Fake: 82%
Inactive: 11%
Good: 7%
Klout Score: 70*

2. UFC Bantamweight Michael McDonald (@maydaymcdonald) follower breakdown:
Followers 24,626
Fake: 56%
Inactive: 22%
Good: 22%
Klout Score: 61*

3. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos (@junior_cigano) follower breakdown:
Followers 599,987
Fake: 48%
Inactive: 33%
Good: 19%
Klout Score: 68*

4. UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva (@spideranderson) follower breakdown:
Followers 3,301,511
Fake: 47%
Inactive: 32%
Good: 21%
Klout Score: 74*

5. UFC Welterweight Demian Maia (@demianmaia) follower breakdown:
Followers 285,245
Fake: 47%
Inactive: 32%
Good: 21%
Klout Score: 81*

Outside of MMA Sampling:
The President of the United States Barack Obama follower Breakdown:
Followers: 29,585,383
Fake: 42%
Inactive: 30%
Good: 28%
Klout: 98*

Notable accounts with above 30% fakes:  UFC Heavyweight Cain Velasquez @ 32%, UFC Heavyweight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira @ 32%, UFC Light Heavyweight Dan Henderson @ 34%, UFC Reporter Ariel Helwani @ 30%, UFC Light Heavyweight Lyoto Machida @ 32%, UFC Lightweight Nate Diaz @ 30%.
See the spreadsheet for the rest of the results.

The Top UFC Athletes with Fake Followers

*About Klout - Klout began with a very simple idea: Everyone has influence—the ability to drive action. Klout measures influence based on various factors.

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