How does one measure their influence on Twitter? Due to a dearth of analytics, it’s very hard to know for sure. Most of the methodologies on offer are built on guesswork or shallow assumptions.
Let’s take a basic metric like the number of followers you have. April’s Ashton Kutcher / CNN rivalry seemed to validate this, in that whoever passed 1M followers first “won.” Nobody really took this seriously (I hope). Even if we ignore the absurdity of comparing a movie star with a 24hr news network, what does 1M+ followers really mean? Nothing without the bigger picture: one must investigate how they’re influential. Whose content is read more? Retweeted more? Seeded to other social media more? Guess which of the following tweets is more influential:
Ok, let’s look outside of existing media entities and celebrities. There are plenty of people trying to inflate their worth by racking up thousands of followers… by following thousands of others and counting on Twitter reciprocity. This kind of 1:1 ratio is impossible to maintain after a certain threshold – Clay Shirky writes about it in Here Comes Everybody and a little bit in this blog entry. In short, one can easily follow 200 people and read their tweets. When you get past, say, a thousand, the difference in quantity becomes a difference in kind; you can’t possibly follow one thousand people’s updates or maintain any kind of relationship.
Let’s rundown the following/follower percentages for the Publishing category in We Follow. Positive percentage indicates the user is followed by more people than they in turn follow; negative percentage reverses this.
- @penguinbooks: 16,830/15,661 = -7.5%
- @michaelhyatt: 37,336 | 36,919 = -1.1%
- @weberbooks: 19,570 | 20,001 = 2.2%
- @worleygirl: 3,804 | 5,894 = 154.9%
- @torbooks: 2,118 | 5,641 = 266.3%
- @colleenlindsay: 1,218 | 4,858 = 399%
- @ronhogan: 468 | 3,143 = 671.6%
- @sarahw: 398/3,956 = 994%
- @booksquare: 233 | 3,021 = 1,296.6%
This is why I scoff when I see a “social media expert” with 12K followers in turn following 12K people. All I see is someone who values quantity over quality. What we need is a balance of various weighted metrics: a follower/following ratio multiplied by the value of your tweets – value in this case established by how far your tweets are re-tweeted or what actions are taken by readers. Colson Whitehead’s #freeskip caught on and even found mention in a Times article. Should we tie @colsonwhitehead into a general Google News Alert and factor that in to Twitter Worth? Are their other indicators you can think of?