Twitter 'Number of Followers' Debate Rages On
As I wrote back in August, the number of Twitter followers one has continues to be an extremely misleading metric. This week, Mark Britton, CEO of Avvo, advanced that idea further, writing on the Legal Technology blog that it was time for him to "let the cat out of the bag" and debunk the notion "that the number of Twitter followers one has is positively, if not perfectly, correlated to the amount of influence someone has in the marketplace."
Britton states flat-out that "the number of one's Twitter followers has nothing to do with his or her influence." He explains, as I discussed in August, that with very little effort anyone can pick up tens of thousands of followers simply by following tens of thousands of people themselves. Britton says that, in fact, the "true Twitter litmus test on the influence front" is as follows:
Look at the ratio of the number of people someone is "following" vs. their "followers" (i.e., divide their "following" number by their "follower" number). The closer that ratio is to 0 (e.g., 125 "following" divided by 40,000 "followers"), the more influential that person is. And, conversely, the closer that ratio is to 1 (e.g., 34,956 "following" divided by 40,000 "followers"), and especially if it exceeds 1 (e.g., 42,566 "following" divided by 40,000 "followers"), the *less* influential that person probably is. Rather than being a thought leader, maven or ninja, they are regular people just like you and me -- they just work harder at spamming Twitter for followers than you or me.
Today, Scott Greenfield added to this discussion on his Simple Justice blog, pointing out that big follower numbers continue to impress many Twitter users who lack "a clear understanding that followers on Twitter are too often named 'Britney' or [are] themselves only interested in gathering as many followers as possible in their simplistic quest at marketing hegemony." In a comment to Greenfield's post, attorney Mark Bennett disagreed with Britton's ratio-based index, arguing that it does not properly measure influence. Bennett writes that:
A person who follows nobody but is followed by his mother would score a perfect Zero.
Britton's index measures boringness. The more people you follow divided by those who follow you is your Twitter Boring Index. The inverse is your Twitter Interesting Index. The most interesting people might have very little influence.
Bennett adds that "to measure influence, we would need to somehow account for the number of followers who are actually paying attention. I haven't quite figured out yet how to do that." In my original post on this in August, I suggested a count of "Interested Followers," defined as the total number of followers who have ever responded in any way (i.e., via a "re-tweet" or an "@" message) to something the user has posted.
Twitter, are you listening?
Posted by Bruce Carton on November 13, 2009 at 12:21 PM | Permalink
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