Last week, just before we kicked off into the deliciously long long weekend, The Advertiser made this huge announcement: One Nation had managed to score Emma Azzopardi — “one of Australia’s biggest social media influencers” — as a Senate candidate for South Australia. My first thought upon reading this was, ‘Who the fuck is Emma Azzopardi?‘
I spend a lot of time on Twitter. Far too much time on Twitter, even. Definitely more time on Twitter than my bosses would like (if you’re reading this: I am not sorry). Despite being almost problematically addicted to the horrible blue bird-themed website, I had never heard of Azzopardi before. It seems like maybe I should have, given that (as The Advertiser claims) she has the most popular Twitter account in South Australia and is followed by the likes of “former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, SA speaker Vincent Tarzia, political party SA Best, and former independent MP Cathy McGowan“.
In the list algorithmically compiled by social media marketing company Socialbakers, Azzopardi is ranked as the 87th most popular Twitter account in the country, sandwiched between comedian Adam Hills and singer and TV personality Ylona Garcia. Azzopardi is followed by just shy of 540,000 people, giving her more followers than the NRL, Triple J, Tame Impala, Jim Jefferies, Leigh Sales, Guy Sebastian, Karl Stefanovic, Kyle and Jackie O, and Australia’s official Twitter account, to name a few examples.
Obviously, you don’t have to be a celebrity to get followers on Twitter. One of the best things about Twitter is it allows regular people who happen to be very funny or insightful to find an audience. Let’s have a look at the tweets that have (apparently) made Azzopardi one of the titans of Australian social media:
No one knows what the picture will look like. So we grab colours along the way and start colouring it. Start start grabbing bright colours <— Emma Azzopardi (@illwah) March 23, 2019
We know if we want a different outcome we have to follow a different script, but we are so used to the old when we are tired, cranky, over worked the old one is second nature. To get a different result you have to change the script even if you can only manage one line at a time <— Emma Azzopardi (@illwah) February 14, 2019
Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits <— Emma Azzopardi (@illwah) December 20, 2018
Corollary to that extraordinary number of followers is the extraordinary number of accounts that she follows. For reference, I follow about 2000 people, a not insignificant chunk of which I have muted over time. This feels like a lot of people to me. Azzopardi follows a whopping 430,000 people. Not only would this make reading your feed a dizzying mess, it’s also a pretty impressive technical feat. Having joined Twitter back in 2009, Azzopardi would have had to follow around 115 people each and every day for the last ten years to arrive at that number. Exhausting!
Pretty strange, but so far not in the realm of the impossible. I haven’t heard of every person on the internet, and maybe Azzopardi gets an insane thrill from hitting the ‘follow’ button. Sure. Those are not the only strange things about her Twitter account.
There comes a point on Twitter where you can tweet pretty much anything and, with enough followers, it will get some traction. A quick scroll through Azzopardi’s account shows that she almost never does. With rare exceptions, most of her tweets don’t crack over 50 likes, most will only have one or two comments. Again, for reference, I have about a tenth the number of followers that Azzopardi does, and I get similar levels of interaction for tweeting about my dreams:
dream journal 10/03/19: stuck in a tube— thomas violence (@thomas_violence) March 9, 2019
Pretty odd that a woman who describes herself as a “social media influencer” seems to be influencing just about nobody, despite the fact that a number of people equivalent to a third of the population of South Australia are seemingly seeing her tweets.
What could explain this odd phenomenon? Well, this might be the right time to point to an article published last year in The Australian Financial Review with the headline: “Obscure Adelaide publicist fuelling Twitter’s fake follower problem“. The article was published after Azzopardi told an AFR reporter that she could sell him Twitter followers:
An obscure Adelaide publicist who has built up one of the largest Twitter followings in Australia is offering to sell 2500 followers on the social media site for $US250, highlighting the dubious business practices common on the popular and influential social media site.
Emma Azzopardi . . . told a reporter from The Australian Financial Review she could increase readership of his articles by providing him with thousands of Twitter followers.
Probably just a coincidence, I guess.
Speaking to The Advertiser, Azzopardi said that she planned to user her social media influence to target voters, claiming that she has 550,000 people to talk to, “287,000 of them” from Australia. Not entirely sure about that one.
I will leave you with this quote (provided in The Advertiser with no context that would make it sound any better): “I want to give people a voice they didn’t know they had, an educated voice, not a voice of just jumping on the bandwagon of things that we are all passionate about which is racism and guns.“