My followers are bigger than yours: On Twitter, quality beats quantity
Ian Lurie Jul 22 2010
I’ve been doing an unscientific study: Watching a random sampling of folks who retweet my blog posts, and then tracking the number of folks who respond to their retweets.
As it turns out, on average you’ll get more visitors when someone with a moderate following retweets your post. I’m leaving out @GuyKawasaki, of course – one tweet from him can crash entire server farms. Here’s the results in a nutshell:
How this got started
I started collecting this data after someone (call him @Spammyguy) with 32,000 followers retweeted 10 tips for publishers. I’m not an idiot, and I knew he’d probably used The Ultimate Solution To Generating Lots Of Twitter Followers And Making Millions While You Sleep. But I figured his spam tweet (spweet?) would generate at least 30-40 clicks. Guess how many I got?
In case you’re wondering, that’s .009375% of his total following.
Then I tracked what happens when someone like @Rhea (3000+ followers) or @AlexHardy (700+ followers) retweets my stuff. The range is huge, and the potential for me screwing up the math is even hugerer, but when a relatively popular person with a following of under 10,000 followers retweets a post, they generate a 3-10% clickthru rate.
Conclusion: It’s not the size of the following, it’s how you use it
@Spammyguy’s 30,000 followers probably see him as an online boil of sorts: For now, they’re stuck with him, but they do their best to ignore him. And after the 40th affiliate link to a get rich quick site, or the 30th Rickroll to a porn site, they sure as hell don’t click on his tweeted links.
@Spammyguy is using his audience as a target: Shoot stuff at them, and maybe a few will bite. He has a big audience, but wields almost zero influence.
On the other hand, smart Twitterers cultivate people they want to talk to. They build smaller, quality lists of interested listeners. They may not seem as impressive, at first glance: Their audiences are relatively small.
But they wield tremendous influence. Their tweets may ‘only’ reach 700 people, but most of those people will re-tweet to their friends, and so on. These folks use their Twitter audience as part of their daily conversation. Because of that, they can reach third- and fourth-hand audiences. So while their direct reach may be smaller, their actual reach is enormous.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More