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Business - Written by on Monday, November 23, 2009 16:59 - 7 Comments

Denis Hancock
Twitter popularity: follower vs. list counts

Follower counts have long provided a decent indicator of a Twitter account’s popularity – though they are relatively easily gamed if you put your mind to it. In October, Twitter launched Lists – “A great way to organize the people you follow and discover new and interesting accounts.” In short, twitter users can make any type of list they want (funny, smart, brands, etc.), and identify accounts they find interesting under each header.

This is obviously another indicator of popularity – the more lists you are on, the more popular you probably are. In turn, one would guess that in most cases there is a high correlation between how many followers an account has, and how many lists they are on. While I don’t have the numbers to back it up, overall I think this is generally true. But I found one particularly interesting anomaly that I wanted to highlight.

The bio for @Agent_M is “editor for Marvel.com. Writer, blogger, loves tacos, tattoos, comics…”. The bio for @Marvel is “the official Twitter for Marvel Comics, Movies, Games and More.” So one account is thoughts from a Marvel editor, while the other is generally content from Marvel itself. Here are the relevant follower and list numbers (as of last week):

@Agent_M: 1.4 million followers, 1,234 lists

@Marvel: 43,000 followers, 1,467 lists

So if you look at straight follower counts, @Agent_M (the editor) is roughly 30 times more popular than @Marvel – an interesting story unto itself. But if you look at the number of times listed, @Marvel is actually a bit more popular. Looking at it another way, divide lists Marvel is on by total followers you get 3.4%; for Agent_M you get 0.1%.

That’s a huge difference. The question I have for Wikinomics readers is why is that – and what does it mean?


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Nov 24, 2009 15:49

I’m confused as to why you correlate popularity with the number of lists a twitter account is on. Personally, I add every new Twitter account that I follow to a particular list, for organization’s sake only. So whether or not a user adds another’s account to a list cannot be directly correlated to popularity. The point is someone is following a particular account, whether that person is organized or not lends nothing to said account’s popularity.
I’m sure there are some people who have created lists and only placed their favorite accounts on those lists. Which means those accounts are more popular for that particular user, but how do you know if that was even the intention of the user in creating such a list. Perhaps a bulk of list users are only organizing their tweets, like me?

Nov 25, 2009 12:32

Interesting comment Jaclyn, but I believe the stats show that your comprehensive approach (adding everyone you follow to a list for organizational purposes) is a rarity – and supports my point.

Going to the extreme case, let’s say everyone was adding everyone they followed to a list for organizational purposes. Since Agent_M has roughly 1.4 million followers, he’d appear on 1.4 million lists; Marvel would appear on about 43,000 for the same reason. So there would be a perfect correlation between the number of followers, and number of lists you are on.

But as the numbers indicate, only a small percentages of people that follow each account are adding them to a list they create. In this case, if you assume everyone that adds an account to a list is already following that it, 3.4% of Marvel followers have placed them into a list; only 0.1% of Agent_M’s followers have. There must be a reason for that difference.

One possibility, tied to your note, is that perhaps – for whatever reason – people that follow Marvel are more interested in organization than people that follow Agent_M. But I can’t think of an explanation for why that would be.

A more likely one might be that @Marvel is easier to classify. If you look at the lists it is on, words like “comics” and “entertainment” appear regularly. Agent_M might simply be harder to classify.

My current list of hypotheses includes that, perhaps, a higher proportion of @Marvel followers are ACTUALLY paying attention to what the account offers up.

But I think popularity plays an important part here. Given that it appears most people have far less people in their lists than they follow, one could assume they’re choosing their particular favorites based on various interests. Whether or not you cross that threshold is likely to have a popularity component – akin to a best friends vs. friends thing, or strong ties vs. weak ties.

Hampus Landelius
Nov 25, 2009 15:46

I think it’s important to realize how huge Twitter is if you put it in a marketing context. As a tool for finding and evaluating opinion leader and formers it’s just fantastic. Yesterday I found a excellent program that lets you analyze Twitter users in a way that blows my mind if you go through all the options.
Its called http://www.twitteranalyzer.com and its awesome, go in to the page and add a persons TwitterID that you know has a lot of followers… not some Hollywood celeb… but someone that in the game! Like dtapscott or BrianSolis and go through all the different categories. But what you see into a marketing context and you will be amazed…. Twitter ambassador marketing will be the next huge thing, at least according to me!
The cool thing today is that all different parts of society has one of these influencers, if you have their name Google it and find their Twitter-ID and the fun begins…
If you would like to read more of my thought I have a blog http://theonlyconstant.se/ it is in Swedish (some posts in English) but Google translate is your friend… I’m also currently trying to make up time to mirror-write in English
Happy thanks giving and pleas try the program, it’s awesome!

Kristine Shuee
Dec 6, 2009 12:53

- i just love to Twitter everyday with my friends. Twitter is much better than blogging in my opinion and it is very addictive too.

Dec 18, 2009 9:20

Denis, please also note you may be put on a list and not followed. As a social media recruiter in the executive healthcare communications space, people may not follow my business twitter account directly (so their employer will not see they are following a recruiter) but they have added me to their lists and do RT.

Jan 15, 2010 2:45

How many do you think it matters popularity for a good positioning or rank on google ?

Jan 31, 2010 23:04

I also use many lists to categorize folks on twitter. I prefer this instead of following a mess of people and having a confusing, and unrelated, feed of random tweets. In fact, I follow very few people but have listed many. This is a great approach for the info junkie like myself.

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