Conservative chairman appears to have found technique to boost number of followers to more than 55,000

The ubiquitous and social media savvy new Conservative chairman Grant Shapps appears to have found a technique to boost his Twitter followers to more than 55,000.

It appears that Shapps, at regular intervals, increases the number of people he follows by as many as 5,000 and if they do not follow him back, he unfollows them.

Analysis of his activity on Twitter shows regular, sudden surges in the number of people he follows succeeded a week later by a sudden decline. The research was conducted by Yatterbox, a political marketing consultancy firm specialising in monitoring all social media activity of politicians.

Matt Freckleton, managing director of Yatterbox said: "Several people have brought this to our attention and it has already made some press headlines. After doing some research we were able to compile some graphs which suggest that Grant Shapps – or someone with access to Grant's Twitter account – is regularly and purposely following and unfollowing many thousands of people on Twitter. It is quite normal for anybody to unfollow people on Twitter, but when it is done in such large numbers on such a frequent basis it does raise questions as to what is going on and why."

There has already been widespread comment on the way Shapps appears to have followers in far-flung countries that are unlikely to have been drawn, on their own initiative, to his thoughts on UK housing policy. One such example of this might include the organisers of a beekeeping project in Morocco that Shapps follows.

Some Twitter users follow large numbers of people, either manually or by using software applications that run automated tasks, known as bots, in the hope that these accounts will follow them back. Shapps, an early advocate of social media, was asked on Twitter whether he "employs someone to find and follow 26,200 people or do you find time (on a ministerial salary) to do it your self?" He replied he "generally, thought it polite to follow folks back" .

Patrick Wintour © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



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