What Does Twitter Followers per Tweet Tell Us?

I had a chance to attend a Social Media Breakfast at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota this morning. The topics ranged from Twitter to, well, Twitter.

There were some strong opinions expressed on how Twitter should be used. For example, some people seem to believe that Twitter is a conversational medium, so anyone using the service for 1-way communications is, in effect, using the service incorrectly.

This seemed like an odd statement to me, considering that some of the most popular “users” on Twitter are, in fact, 1-way broadcast tweets from companies like WordPress, CNN, FireFox, and The New York Times.

None of those Twitter users use @replies, favorites, or presumably, direct Tweets. They are truly 1-way conversations.

Extreme Twittering

Live Twittering of this event was extraordinarily high. In fact, it was the most tweeted about event this morning with ~540 Tweets produced regarding the event within 2 hours. Four hours after the event, post-event tweets continue to roll in at a rate of one approximately every 10 minutes.

As I look through the tweets that went out during the event, I realized that few would be valuable to anyone other than the people who were already sitting in the room. And they weren’t particularly valuable to people in the room since many were simply recalling what was just said.

The one tweet I sent quoted one of the presenters who said, “There is a lot of crap on Twitter.” Looking back on what was said by this experienced Twittering crowd certainly reinforces that statement for me.

Followers per Tweet

As I thought about this more, I figured that there many be some form of “chatter” metric worth creating. This is my first swing at that.

Using Twitterholic’s data, I divided the top-100 most followed Twitter user’s number of followers by their number of tweets to date, then re-ranked the top-100 by Followers/Tweet. For example, currently have 590 followers and have sent 709 updates to date for a ratio of 0.82.

Here’s what it looks like for the top-100 most followed Twitter users:

Twitter Followers per Tweet
Click here for a larger version. However, not every column is labeled in this graph so check the spreadsheet for all rankings.

Ranked this way, the top Twitter account become:
– wordpress (wordpress) 398.40
– Barack Obama (BarackObama) 354.58
– macrumors (macrumors) 274.46
– Stephen Colbert (StephenColbert) 241.05
– Henry Rollins (HenryRollins) 165.12

And the bottom five (among the top-100 most followed) become:
– Chris Brogan (chrisbrogan) 0.60
– C.C. Chapman (cc_chapman) 0.57
– Jim Long (newmediajim) 0.44
– Wayne Sutton (waynesutton) 0.39
– New York Times (nytimes) 0.30

So, what does that mean? Here are a few ideas:

1. You don’t need to have a 2-way conversation to build a large following on Twitter. Publishing content people interesting, such a software updates, headlines, or humor are valuable whether or not you engage your followers.

2. When I look at the post volume of the bottom five on the list, I see users (human and automated) with extraordinarily high Twitter update volumes. I imagine many Twitter users have followed these users at one time but later unfollowed after realizing their volume was overwhelming. CNN at 10th vs NY Times at 100th is a good example of this. CNN is much more selective is what they publish to their popular “Breaking” feed than the NY Times is to their feed where international, national, sports, and city room stories are all bundled together creating more noise than signal for many users.

Burning Through Followers?

I imagine gaining a follower back who’s previously unfollowed has to be quite difficult since they’ve felt burned before.

With this in mind, I think a strong case could be made for slowly building a strong, loyal, following over time by focusing on quality over quantity.

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