Twitter follower numbers mean a great deal to a lot of people. However, it seems that as Twitter matures as a service, the number of followers someone has, has very little to do with their influence. For those of you like myself, who use Twitter as part of your marketing mix, this is worth knowing; as you can waste a LOT of time chasing follower numbers, when it’s the quality of your Twitter network that really matters.
Twitter follower numbers and influence
I’ve noticed a significant change over the past year, where many of the people with tens of thousands of followers, who ReTweet my posts, generate little if any traffic to the blog. Yet, many people with relatively small Twitter followings seem to have far more influence, when it comes to getting their followers to take some kind of measurable action.
It seems that I am not alone in this observation.
A recent paper by Meeyoung Cha from the Max Planck Institute, was covered in The Harvard Business Review. With Twitter’s full permission, Cha’s team monitored 54 million ACTIVE Twitter users and was able to measure a number of metrics, including things like ReTweets and the number of times a user / brand was mentioned by their followers. They came to the conclusion that Twitter follower numbers do not equal influence. Cha said:
“Our claim is that follower count is not sufficient to capture the influence of a user (i.e., the ability of an user to sway the opinions of her followers). It only shows how popular the user is (i.e., the size of her audience). But, as we showed in our paper, retweets and mentions, which measure the audience responsiveness to a user’s tweets, do not correlate strongly with number of followers.” (There’s an excellent, short summery of the paper in this post on ReadWriteWeb)
Tens of thousands of Twitter followers & near zero influence
I am seeing examples of this every day. Only last week, a guy ReTweeted a link to this blog, to his 40,000 followers. As he works in marketing and claims to be a highly influential Twitter user, I was curious what the click through rate would be – So, I monitored it!
In the 60 minutes following his ReTweet, just 5 (yes, FIVE) people in total visited that particular post. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and say all 5 clicks came from his 40,000 followers.
An hour later, I asked a friend of mine with under 1000 followers, to share that same link and using her tracking software, monitor how many people clicked the link. 26 people clicked through in the next 60 minutes, using her unique RT link, all of whom showed up on my own analytics software.
What are your thoughts, regarding influence on Twitter? Please take a moment to share your feedback!
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