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Twitter Followers, Should We Have a New Metric?

Posted by on April 22, 2009


(photo I took on the Great Wall)

It seems like at every tech conference or event the issue of how many twitter followers someone has always comes up…why?  I was interested to see that there is a teleseminar called “Twitter Masters” that’s going to take place in the coming weeks.  What strikes me as odd about the Twitter Master’s homepage is that underneath each speakers’ name is the number of twitter followers that they currently have.  However there is no mention of how many people that person is following.  A common courtesy on twitter (which I don’t follow) is to follow someone when they follow you.  See what I’m getting at here?  If you want a lot of twitter followers, then start following a lot of people, simple as that.  What this means is that you have to take the number of followers someone has and look at the context behind it.

Should twitter remove the number of followers from profiles?

Some people say yes, some say no.  I’m a bit undecided here.  However, I think that twitter can try testing other metrics instead of the follower count.  For example what if they created a ranking similar to Google Page Rank?  Google doesn’t exactly tell you what your PR level means but you do know that it’s out of a 10 point scale so you have something you can approximate off of and benchmark from.  Twitter will have to do a bit of algorithm creation on their end but I think creating a type of ranking or popularity number will be quite effective for measurement.  They can include variables such as:

  • number of retweets
  • number of followers
  • number of people they follow
  • how many times they tweet a day
  • how many links they send out a day
  • etc.

All of these variables can be combined to create a persons twitter score or popularity metric that we can use instead of how many followers a person has, what do you think?

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  • Stuartfoster

    I think we have to at some point. The follower information at this point is extremely flawed due to its ability to be manipulated with the gaming of autofollow tweeps.

    I suggest taking a broad based approach: Twitter.grader, Twitterholic, Tweetcount, Tweepular and a bunch of others all add valuable information to measuring a person's pull.

    • jacob morgan

      hey stuart.

      it is a bit flawed but unfortunately it's a metric that people are looking at as a measure of success. you did recommend a few good tools though. i'm not familiar with all of them; am going to check them out now, thanks!

  • Unknown

    Twitter is some kind of revolution in the blogspace. Thats what I feel when I see people working so much on providing tools and metrics.

    • jacob morgan

      ya it certainly seems that way. twitter is just the beginning, i dont think it will be the same platform in a year.

  • jtswinkels

    Tweetsum DBI secret sauce metrics similar to your suggestions.

  • Tom

    Don't really care about the follower/following ratio. Ofcourse I look at it when to decide to follow someone, but it's the last 20 tweets that count. Whatever ego he may or may not have. But what I don't really like is people who add 100 accounts a week just to keep the numbers up. When you produce something that informative or entertaining to some people, the followers will…. euhm… well… follow.
    But what Twitter matters, I kinda have a live and let live attitude…

  • Steve Farnsworth

    Jacob, great Blog. I really like your idea to use a “Google-like” ranking. Best suggestion yet to deal with the problems that twitter faces by just focusing on follower/following!

    • jacob morgan

      thanks steve, definitely hope to hear more form you in the future!

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  • Jonny

    Hi Jacob,
    Interestingly enough this came up in a Digital Strategy course I was in last night. One of the things we talked about was ReTweets being a better indicator of influence – the more you're RT'd the better/more engaging the content (and thus thinking about Page Rank, the higher you'd get).

    Going back to your question re: getting rid of followers from metrics – I don't mind if it stays. I look at it to determine how long people have been on twitter, and then I look at their recent posts before deciding to follow or not.

    In terms of currently available sites for analytic use, if you're a power tweeter (i much prefer tweeter to twitterer), something like twitalyzer can be useful in terms of understanding your sphere of influence. For most though, I reckon a combination of Tweetreach and Twitstats would suffice.

    • jacobmorgan

      hi johnny thanks a lot for the comment. interesting to hear that twitter was mentioned in a digital strategy course, what course was it?

      rt'd is also a good measure of influence, however i think it's one factor of several that can be used to calculate a relevancy score.

  • afallison

    I'm just now really getting my feet wet with disqus. I am really loving the way it integrates with twitter and the other web 2.0 social platforms. ;)

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