Want to learn how to get more than 250,000 followers in one day? Just ask London’s Mayor Boris Johnson.
Many in London are peeved after Johnson switched the city’s official City Hall Twitter handle, @MayorofLondon, to his own name, @BorisJohnson, effectively appropriating over 250,000 followers in one swipe.
This comes just six weeks before Johnson, a member of the Conservative party, faces reelection. Representatives of the opposing Labour party have filed a complaint to the Greater London authority, a taxpayer-funded organization that originally set up the Twitter feed in 2008. Its rules stipulate elected officials “must not use resources improperly for political purposes.”
“Basically taxpayers’ money has been spent to build up and maintain a feed that Boris has now hijacked,” a spokesperson for Kevin Livingstone, the Labour party’s mayoral candidate, told the Guardian. “To compare like with like, the No 10 Twitter feed [representing the office of UK’s Prime Minister, named after 10 Downing St] was set up under [former PM] Gordon Brown but has stayed as an official feed since [current PM David] Cameron took over."
Johnson has also come under attack for changing the link listed in the account’s profile from www.london.gov.uk, the official site for London’s City Hall, to backboris2012.com, Johnson’s campaign site.
To address these concerns, Johnson tweeted, “To be clear- @borisjohnson will only be used for discussing mayoral duties. To follow me on the campaign trail, follow @backboris2012.” Yet the URL featured on the @borisjohnson account still leads to the reelection site.
A spokesman from Johnson’s camp justified the decision to switch the account by stating that it was Johnson’s brand that attracted so many followers in the first place. The spokesman even told the Guardian that the changeover resulted in a big bump in followers:
“Boris has been completely transparent about changing the Twitter name and since it has changed we have seen a surge in followers despite followers being free to unfollow at any time."
However the Labour party argues that the account had 253,125 followers prior to the switch, while the account currently sits at 253,473 followers. It may be too early to assess how the name change will have impacted the feed’s follower count, but either way, a .14% bump hardly sounds like a “surge.” Furthermore, the @backboris2012 Twitter account only has 3613 followers.