26/10/2010

By Steve Walker, Epiphany Solutions Ltd

There have been a lot of conversations about the value of a twitter follower, ever since Mahalo CEO, Jason Calacanis, offered the co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams $250,000 to be on the suggested users to follow. Last week Evan Williams stepped down from his role as CEO to focus on product and strategy development, with this, Twitter announced that it would be launching promoted accounts which allow brands to purchase spaces on the ‘Who To Follow’ suggestions. This undoubtedly means that organisations perceive having a powerful twitter account with hundreds of thousands of followers as something that has a high ROI.

Maybe so, but the question is, is it popularity or influence (quantity or quality) that causes this?

What I mean by influence is this; tweeters such as (the current no.1) Lady GaGa have 6,662,009 followers but what value does this add to her online marketing? Does she post links to her official site, merchandise or new songs? Do her tweets influence consumer behaviour?

One such case is for Microsoft’s Xbox division, a trial brand on the newly launched promoted accounts. Would they rather have a Twitter follower who remains essentially just a number, or would they rather have convertible traffic on their website?

The socialite Kim Kardashian has recently been on Mashable as being an example of influence over popularity. She ranks as no. 7 in the popularity contest below other stars such as Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Obama, yet Kardashian’s official website gets more traffic than any other celeb on twitter. Her official site ranks 54th of all websites that get click throughs from twitter users, and she’s number 20 in the entertainment category. You still may think that’s pretty low, but the sites above her are sites like flickr, Vimeo and TwitPic, goliaths in comparison.

This is backed up by research from Northwestern University Professor Alok Choudary,

“People think that just because you have a huge number of followers you may potentially be an influencer, and that is not the case”

Alok Choudary and university graduate student Ramanathan Narayanan have created a site called pulse of the tweeters. It uses complex algorithms to mine millions of tweets to find the most influential users on twitter.

The socialite is an example of the argument for quality over quantity. When using your twitter account to increase your power on the social web, don’t focus too much on the amount of followers, but the influence you have over your followers and the community you are creating. It’s better to have a room of people listening to you than a stadium of people ignoring you.

Find out more about Epiphany Solutions Ltd at www.epiphanysolutions.co.uk


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