Home On Twitter, It’s Follower Quality Not Quantity that Matters

On Twitter, It’s Follower Quality Not Quantity that Matters

You see it everywhere: your friend on Facebook trying to get you to “like” their employer’s new page while another friend pleads for you to follow such-and-such account on Twitter. It doesn’t matter that you’re a 20-something and they’re tweeting about how to make the most of retired life – everyone knows that the more followers you have, the more influence you’ll have, right? Whoever has the most followers wins, right?

Wrong. According to the latest research from HP Labs, it’s not necessarily how many followers you have, but how passive or active they are in spreading the word.

In a video interview, researcher Dr. Bernardo Huberman frames the questions examined in HP’s study, saying “In a world where all information is crowdsourced, how is it that an agenda gets set? There are zillions of messages there, millions of people and somehow, some things end up bubbling all the way to the top and grab the consciousness of a lot of people.”

“There’s an enormous amount of passivity in the social network,” Dr. Huberman goes on to say, explaining that some people can have an enormous number of followers, but not much influence, while others can have fewer followers but much more influence.

The study finds that “the correlation between popularity and influence is weaker than it might be expected. This is a reflection of the fact that for information to propagate in a network, individuals need to forward it to the other members, thus having to actively engage rather than passively read it and cease to act on it.”

Despite this claim, the report offers a top 10 list of Twitter users with the most influence, not one having fewer than 40,000 followers, and some, such as @rww, @google and @breakingnews, with more than a million followers. The top 10 accounts, given in no apparent order in the summary of the report, were @mashable, @jokoanwar, @google, @aplusk, @syfy, @smashingmag, @michellemalkin, @theonion, @rww and @breakingnews.

The list was created by way of an “IP Algorithm”, which assigns a “relative influence score and passivity score to every user” by looking at how they interact with other users, the influence they have on other users, and by studying “the propagation of web links on Twitter over time.”

The full text of the report is available on Scribd.

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