Twitter Follower Count

How many Twitter followers do you have?

How many followers should you have?

I don’t care, but you can follow me on Twitter here.

While Twitter follower count is the most cited metric of Twitter profile importance, I really don’t care about that number. With some exceptions, I’ve found little correlation between the value of a Twitter profile and the number of followers. Some people with high follower counts are interesting, and some aren’t. Some people with low follower counts are interesting, and some aren’t.

So let’s flip this question on its head: How many people do you follow on Twitter — and whom do you follow? I’m more intrigued with these questions because the number and types of profiles you follow says more about who and how interesting you are than the number of people who follow you.

The number of people you follow can indicate how selective, inclusive or careless you are in grooming your online social network. For example, if you’re following 15,000 people, chances are that you’re not very selective in where you grant your attention. Or it might mean that you’re willing to friend anyone in hopes of reciprocity — with the goal of claiming a massive follower count. People whose foremost motivation is popularity taint themselves. If you’re selective in your follower count, it probably means you are more thoughtful in where you allocate your attention; in many cases, that also means you’re more thoughtful in your interactions and expressions.

Then there’s whom you follow — which says a lot about who you are and how relevant you are to me. This list indicates where your interests and social preferences lie, and provides insight into motivation. If you have a tendency to limit your following to more interesting people, whom I also find interesting, then I’m likely to trust and explore additional people in your social graph, and be more interested in your recommendations and expressions.

I’m following about 453 people as of this writing, though 100 really matter to me. It’s not that all 453 people aren’t important, it’s just that I have limited attention. And even 100 active Twitter profiles creates a status stream that is relatively tough to follow. Sure, there are Twitter Lists now, which help segment and aggregate a higher volume of Twitter profiles into interest groups, but the problem of status update overflow remains massive and seems to get worse everyday. Until we get better tools to filter Twitter streams, I think 100 is the magic number of people to follow.

What’s your method for evaluating the value of a Twitter profile? How do you select and filter Twitter profiles and tweets so they create value — versus noise — in your life?

This was my latest column in MediaPost.

(Photo credit: Fanie Gregoire)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. hm… following just a 100 people would be hard for me. I’ll admit I follow a ton of people. In that huge list, there are people who have interests in 1) birds 2) baking 3) research 4) statistics 5) charts 6) writing 7) just plain silly 8) news 9) marketing 10) science and more. Depending on what I want to learn/entertainment myself with, i’ll choose the appropriate topic and enjoy some reading. I don’t try to read every single update. I like getting the flavour of the moment. If it’s really important, it will be retweeted. If I only followed 100 people in each section, thats already 1000 people all of whom I appreciate.

  2. Great post.
    A lot of things seem to matter at first (ie., # followers), but they really don’t matter too much at all. Its hard to
    understand people’s motivation, without investing a lot of my attention on them, and that only comes over time.

    I’ve only just now started to use Hootesuite as a means to more easily filter the noise, and to build lists that will provide more value. I’ve found that some people are way too tweet happy, and I’d rather filter them out entirely, specifically when I’m focused on “the morning read.” I will say, however, that a little mindless time on Twitter is how I first found out Michael Jackson and others died. And I was fooled at least once about Bill Cosby’s demise.

    Follower count and number of tweets generally give me an indication of how much people are investing of themselves in Twitter, but not necessarily how much I”m going to get out of them. There are exceptions to this rule (see @chrisbrogan).
    If you haven’t already, read Fred Wilson’s post on Peer Index. Then look at how they have a one-click ability to create Twitter lists for key authorities on specific topics. A few of these dropped into Hootesuite seems to be a way to quickly develop several key lists with a lot of high quality voices.

  3. Max, great post. I follow a little over 500 people, but like you, dedicate most of my mind share to about 100 or so (not sure what the count is, but I indeed pay more attention to some than others). Here’s how I evaluate if I follow back: I look for a picture (gives them depth/sense of vulnerability); I look for a bio (lets me know what they tweet about); I look at recent past tweets; I look at the follower/following counts to get a sense of their ratio (try to determine if they are a broadcaster, lurker, or sharer); and I look at how long they’ve been on Twitter.

    Your post motivated me to finish one I drafted a little while back, so thanks! You can read it here, if you like:

  4. Pingback: Here I am | Max's
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