Candidates Struggle to Make Twitter Matter

Schwarzenegger leads Newsom, Brown; Whitman and Carrot Top falling behind

By Matt Baume
|  Thursday, Sep 3, 2009  |  Updated 1:33 PM PDT
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Candidates Struggle to Make Twitter Matter

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If the popularity contest between California's gubernatorial candidates is to be judged by Twitter followers, Gavin Newsom is beating Jerry Brown, with 994,857 versus 756,665 followers. Both are miles ahead of conservative candidate Meg Whitman's 3,093. And they all face stiff competition from the man they're trying to replace: Current governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has an army of 1,032,355.

If you were to compare these numbers to the number of followers boasted by celebrities, Gavin is Serena Williams, Jerry Brown is the Queen of Jordan, Meg Whitman is Carrot Top, and Arnold is, startlingly, The White House. A sign?

Of course, whether any of these numbers matter is anyone's guess. (Hint: they probably don't.)

Sometimes social networking followers can be transformed into positive action -- for example, a fundraiser sparked on Facebook raised $10,000 for hungry families.

Newsom has raised money for his campaign on Twitter -- but the Twitter-ignored Whitman has far outpaced Newsom and Brown in fundraising.

But quantity doesn't equal quality; when a company called uSocial announced a plan to sell Facebook followers ($654.30 for 5000 fans, $1,167.30 for 10,000), the Internet groaned that buying friends "seems dishonest," that the service was for people who are "totally reprehensible," and is "alarming." So a big following doesn't automatically equal popularity.

After all, even He Who Walks Backwards boasts several thousand friends. (The Twitter account for Hitler, it should be noted, has been suspended for "strange activity.")

And between your real friends and all othe interesting people writing honest Tweets, here's plenty of better people to buddy up to online than a bunch of advertisements.

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