Which airlines are “faking” it online?

Social media is supposed to be an authentic experience — which is to say, real people connecting with other real people. But the system can be manipulated. Twitter followers and Facebook “likes” can be bought, giving the appearance that you’re more popular or influential than you really are.

But that deception was difficult to prove, let alone measure. Until yesterday.

Within just a few hours, the popular social media scoring system Klout updated its rating algorithm, and a new service emerged that could detect fake and inactive Twitter users. (The results prove nothing, of course, but they make for interesting reading.)

How did airlines fare? Let’s go straight to the numbers:

American Airlines

Number of Twitter followers: 406,300

Klout score: 89 (out of 100)

Fake followers: 26 percent

Inactive followers: 45 percent

Real followers: 29 percent

Delta Air Lines

Number of Twitter followers: 356,100

Klout score: 89

Fake followers: 27 percent

Inactive followers: 36 percent

Real followers: 37 percent

JetBlue Airways

Number of Twitter followers: 1,680,700

Klout score: 82

Fake followers: 26 percent

Inactive followers: 39 percent

Real followers: 35 percent

Southwest Airlines

Number of Twitter followers: 1,367,700

Klout score: 88

Fake followers: 26 percent

Inactive followers: 43 percent

Real followers: 31 percent

United Airlines

Number of Twitter followers: 132,000

Klout score: 82

Fake followers: 17 percent

Inactive followers: 41 percent

Real followers: 42 percent

US Airways

Number of Twitter followers: 220,800

Klout score: 80

Fake followers: 19 percent

Inactive followers: 45 percent

Real followers: 36 percent

Bottom line: United Airlines has the highest percentage of “real” Twitter followers at 42 percent, and American Airlines has the lowest, with just 29 percent. As to the question of who’s “faking” it, the airline with the highest percentage of bogus followers is Delta, at 27 percent — although it’s a close race.

In terms of the revised Klout scores, Delta and American score the highest with an 89 while US Airways’ 80 is the lowest. (Again, not that Klout scores mean a thing.)

JetBlue has the most Twitter followers, edging out Southwest with its 1.6 million online disciples (only 35 percent of which, I hasten to add, are real). But given the new analysis, that number is less relevant.

What does all of this mean? Well, if these numbers are to be believed, they suggest which airlines try to stuff the ballot box with “fake” followers and which ones truly understand social media — and frankly, the results are a little surprising.

I mean, who would have ever predicted that legacy airlines would have the highest percentage of “real” Twitter followers and the highest Klout scores. (I would have predicted a clean sweep by social media darlings Southwest and JetBlue, but I would have been totally wrong.)

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve run these numbers on myself. My Twitter handle is elliottdotorg. (For the record, I haven’t paid a social media firm to stuff the ballot box or done any funny stuff.)

Elliott

Number of Twitter followers: 30,900 (OK, so I’m not an airline)

Klout score: 80

Fake followers: 8 percent

Inactive followers: 30 percent

Real followers: 62 percent