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Twitter Numbers; What The Hey?

Posted by on Feb 16, 2011

I’ve been on Twitter almost 3 years now. When I first joined, if a person had a lot of followers they had just under 20,000 people. Now if you don’t have followers into the hundreds of thousands, you’re pretty much considered a loser.

I guess I’m a loser. I have around 2,700 followers, and I’m following just over 1,000 people at the same time. In general, I’m thinking that’s not a bad ratio, and for the most part I’m okay with those figures.

For the most part, that is. I get a lot of requests each day from people I’ve never heard of saying they’re following me and giving me the option of following them. Actually, I guess it’s more accurate to say Twitter sends me these messages. What I do is look through almost every one of them to see what these people are all about, and how they communicate with others.

You know what? For the most part they’re junk. I mean, sometimes you have a profile that had lots of messages with fewer than 10 words. Sometimes they’re only quotes; often they’re just sales messages. Most of the time they’re links or retweets. That’s certainly a lot of Twitter blather.

Nothing really wrong with that, I guess, but is it, well, social? Actually, let me go back and say there is something wrong with it. Something I don’t like is that I know that most of these people are automatically signing up with each other and not looking at anyone who’s following them. They may not ever even go to Twitter and read any messages; they may not ever respond to anyone who sends them a message. Instead, they just hook up with everyone else and end up with some fantastic numbers.

What kind of numbers? I regularly am being contacted by people with at least 5,000 people following them. Often I have people with more than 20,000 others following them. And you know what? Some of those have never even posted a single message; what the hey?

I’d be jealous if I really thought these people were popular. One of those interesting things is that these people end up with very high Klout scores, and maybe that’s one reason I’m not trusting Klout at all. I wish I could remember who did it, but one guy actually set up a false account with software and did an experiment where it automatically not only went out searching for people to follow but automatically followed anyone who followed the account. Within a week his new account had over 5,000 followers, and it hadn’t send out a single tweet. And that account’s Klout score was over 65; it was amazing.

He then set up the account to automatically start posting messages, which were all links, and within 3 days the follower count increased to 7,000, and at the end of the week the Klout score was around 75.

Frankly, if it’s that easy to game the system, I’m not sure I want to deal with it. Sure, I want more influence, but at what cost? Is one being influential if they’re actually talking to no one? And if one’s posts are being retweeted but none of those people are ever stopping to check out the links, then are you really influential or just feeling a false sense of the word?

By the way, this isn’t a Twitter bash. I have lots of fun on Twitter, and I know that by posting my blog links to it from time to time that I’ve encouraged people to stop by my blogs for a quick visit here and there. I will say, though, that I lament much of the technology that’s made it kind of a mess here and there by people who could care less.

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Jessica Sieghart:

I’m a real loser then with my 800 and something followers. LOL I used to really like Twitter, but then it turned into a bunch of quotes, sales pitches, SEO gurus and I don’t even know what else. Most people (at least the 900 or so I’m following) are not posting personal thoughts or opinions any longer. That’s what I liked about Twitter, along with the celebrity aspect. I like the celebs! One of my friends suggested cutting back the people I’m following to only the ones that truly interest me. One of these days I’ll give it another try, but for now I’m still feeling anti-Twitterish

February 16th, 2011 | 9:49 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Jessica, Twitter works really well if one decides how they want to use it. For instance, I have different groups of people that I follow for sure, then I have the group where, if I have nothing else to do, I check in on it. Most of the people I follow are in that group. So, I tend to have actual conversations on Twitter, which is what it was for, as opposed to just passing information on all the time. Sure, I do some of that as well, but I’m a heck of a lot more social than a lot of people are.

February 16th, 2011 | 1:59 PM

Hi Mitch

I enjoy interacting with my followers on Twitter. I have never played the numbers game and try as hard as I can to follow those who have something to offer and who communicate regularly with others. Still very hard to find these people so my numbers are going up slowly.

But they are manageable and when I find my follower numbers going up all of a sudden I check them and I reckon they are automated tweets that of course I block as I so don’t want to bother with all that rubbish!

If used properly Twitter can be a powerful tool but so much abuse of it that it can be tiresome to be deleting inappropriate tweets that have my name and are nothing to do with me. Oh well, for all good systems, there will always be those who abuse them. Will keep tweeting posts that I have found helpful and interacting with those whom I follow and my followers too. And leave the spammers to themselves. I’m sure not going to be speaking to them any time soon 😉

Patricia Perth Australia

February 16th, 2011 | 10:25 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Pat, I stopped blocking followers for the most part a very long time ago. Most of them aren’t even looking at whether you’re following them or not, and I figure if some of them are why deprive them of what I might be putting out there. If I’m contacted via a spam link those I delete and block, but that’s about it.

Still, some of the numbers I see on some of these accounts that don’t seem to deserve it are amazing.

February 16th, 2011 | 2:01 PM

I don’t really consider Klout as a serious thing, I used it when it was not so famous, several month ago, just for fun and to check which category I would fall into.
I admit I am one of those over-linker Twitter people, but I do participate in talks too, and I always reply to public mentions.
The only thing that leaves me kinda perplexed is the abuse of Direct Messages by, well, really everyone. Even “famous” people make shameless use of DM spam as soon as you join them, I really don’t get why they are doing it, or if anyone actually appreciates this behavior at all.

February 16th, 2011 | 11:38 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

I’m with you on that DM thing, Gabriele, although I understand why they do it. It’s like some blogs will send you a special message the first time you leave a comment. Some people actually like that, and I guess one has to weigh how many people will like it versus how many won’t. For me, since I tend not to like receiving it, I won’t do it, but it’s rare that I’ll be mad if it happens to me, since I had the option of not following them in the first place.

February 16th, 2011 | 2:03 PM

I guess I would be considered a loser too 🙁 But thats ok I don’t use twitter that often anymore anyways. 🙂

February 16th, 2011 | 12:31 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Tanya, I guess we all are whatever we’re going to be, right? 😉

February 16th, 2011 | 2:04 PM

Probably in the last couple of months you have notice that twitter goes very often over capacity. Number of more than 5000, means that user is participating in twitter following exchange scheme which is technically useless. Another thing is that quite a few programs from Clickbank are abusing twitter, creating multiple accounts and the purpose is Google latest search. Twitter posts for long tail keywords appear quite often and can stay for more than an hour. The latest research is showing that 15% of world searches are going exactly to those results in Google Latest.

February 16th, 2011 | 10:32 PM

I have a Twitter account, Mitch, and we are even connected there, but, I admit, I am not that social. I tweet once or twice a day and retweet when I find something interesting and that’s it. My social life online is more centred on blog commenting rather than tweeting. We have more or less the same figures and I am not worried because I am not that caught up with them anyway. But I do believe that I am in for another session of cleaning up my Twitter account…I just haven’t gotten around to it.

– Wes –

February 17th, 2011 | 12:57 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Wes, I certainly don’t bash Twitter. I mean, I had a nice long conversation last night with a friend of mine in Nebraska and it was nice. I have lots of conversations with people from all over the world and that’s fun. It’s just some of the tricks people and companies come up with to game the system that I don’t like.

February 17th, 2011 | 11:07 AM

Oh, I didn’t intend to say that you are bashing Twitter, Mitch. Just adding my own two cents to the conversation. And, soon when I have a bit more time, I’d like to make friends through Twitter as well. I surely admire people like you who really finds the time to do a lot of whole other things than blogging.

February 17th, 2011 | 7:41 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Wes. Truthfully, if I could make a living just writing my blogs, and not just a living but a pretty nice one, this would be all I did and I’d have a pretty good time of it.

Okay, it wouldn’t be ALL I did, but I wouldn’t complain one bit. 😉

February 17th, 2011 | 11:16 PM

I actually started with a new twitter maybe 6 or so months ago and I’m a major loser 🙂

I can’t just follow anyone…there have been a few that wanted me to follow and come to find out, their morals are WAY different than mime! It’s almost shocking that they can get away with tweeting some of that stuff….

February 17th, 2011 | 10:17 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Well Carolee, we learn early on that people have different mores that they feel comfortable with. Anyone who really gets my goat… I move in a different direction. But what’s funny is that lately I’m getting a lot of notices of being followed by people following thousands of other folks, some have thousands of followers themselves, and they haven’t sent out a single tweet. That’s when you know someone’s just gaming the system.

February 17th, 2011 | 11:09 AM

Hey Mitch,

Actually there are programs that can do the exact strategy that you just described, that is follow hundred of users every day then unfollow them n number of days later. With this kind of software, which you can leave running all day long you can rack up around 10000 new followers every month, so Klout score can be faked.

I think any time someone will invent a scaling system there will be someone else which will think of methods of thinking it.

February 17th, 2011 | 5:33 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

I hate that kind of thing, Alex, and I just don’t really see the overall purpose of it. Well, I do, which is to trick people, but I keep figuring that people must want to be tricked.

February 17th, 2011 | 11:15 PM

Hey Mitch, if those numbers make you a loser then I reckon I must be damn Aussie scum because I haven’t even reached a thousand yet.

I’ve seen those guys with all those followers and I reckon they just follow anyone in the hope of getting followed back. I don’t work that way, like you I suss em out first to see if they’re worth following.

February 17th, 2011 | 11:41 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

That’s the best way to go, Sire. I mean, if people aren’t really interacting with anyone, then just how valuable could those connections be?

February 18th, 2011 | 2:45 AM

My sentiments exactly.

February 18th, 2011 | 6:18 AM


Looks like you’re surrounded by a bunch of LOSERS—me included! I have just under 4000 and follow about 2000. Someone told me early on that the more followers I had, the more eyes would see my business. That might be true but the Twitter stream moves so quickly sometimes that it’s hard to really keep up with what people are actually promoting half the time.

I am still about engaging with others, while I promote.

February 18th, 2011 | 7:51 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

We all seem to be in agreement that engaging with others is one of the major points of Twitter. However, I wonder how many people stopped by and read this post that have the opposite view and thus decided to just stay quiet. lol

February 18th, 2011 | 9:30 PM

Mitch, it’s interesting what games people play with Twitter’s API. The developers have attacked it from every angle – leaving us to figure out which Twitter apps are worthwhile and which ones aren’t.
Now Twitter is showing the “PeerIndex” on your profile, but HootSuite continues to display Klout.
The bottom line really depends on your goals and rather or not you’re getting traffic from Twitter on your blog or website. Some people like to play the numbers game but keep in mind, that’s all it is – a game. 🙂

Thanks for sharing that case study too. Talk to you soon Mitch.

February 20th, 2011 | 5:12 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Good stuff, Ileane. I checked out PeerIndex, which I’d never heard of, and you’re right, it’s like Klout in its way. I’m not really sure it will represent me either because I looked at it trying to figure out topics one talks about, but if one is engaging other people that doesn’t quite fit. You’re correct on the other point also, that being if you’re getting traffic, which I figure at least half the people who are on Twitter are trying to do. The rest are there to either sell, sell, sell, or to have fun; nothing wrong with fun.

February 20th, 2011 | 8:51 AM

its fun to be on twitter, i don’t like standards of followers made by people or what u said here…i just love to use twitter.

February 23rd, 2011 | 12:09 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Aimee, I’m not sure there’s any standard by many of the folks other than the numbers. Some of the things I’ve been reading lately indicate that there’s little shame in getting followers in any way possible; I’m not like that.

February 23rd, 2011 | 2:02 PM