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Mitt Romney has 100,000 new Twitter followers. Or does he?

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But Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University, said there are no upsides and many downsides for any campaign that fakes its following because voters don't really care about the numbers.

"They do care if you're a fraud. They do care if you're lying about who supports you," Schiller said. "Why risk your credibility as a politician by engaging in that?"

Social media can be key in motivating campaign supporters, although experts say quality is more important than quantity. About 80 people work in the Romney campaign's digital department, a large portion of them on social media, Moffatt said. The Obama campaign said social media allow the campaign to communicate directly with voters without a filter but would not say how many of its staffers are directly engaged in it.

Zach Green is chief executive of 140elect, a Twitter-specific political consulting service, and runs 2012twit.com, which keeps Twitter statistics on the Obama and Romney campaigns. While Obama has more followers and tweets more frequently than Romney, Green's statistics show Romney's tweets are more widely shared.

It's easy and inexpensive to purchase followers on Twitter. Websites advertise 10,000 Twitter followers for as little as $52. Twitter prohibits the use of such services, as does Facebook, which also prohibits providing false personal information and creating more than one personal account. But a fake name and an email address are enough to get around those prohibitions. Facebook estimates nearly 4 percent of its 950 million users are not actual people. Similar statistics for Twitter are unavailable because it is privately held.

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