Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Twitter Lists, Ratios and Follower Counts: Network vs. Broadcast?

Even at this stage in the game, you could probably get five experts in a room and have each describe Twitter differently. Kind of like The Elephant and the Blind Men fable. But with the new lists feature, it's growing easier to see why and how people people are using this tool.
Two of the main reasons people use Twitter are to broadcast and to network. (Why people follow is similar, either to receive the broadcast, or to network - and probably a combination of both.)
I got to thinking today about the new Lists feature and what the ratio of followers to Lists says about a handle on Twitter. Folks are already blogging on this - here's one on the "respect ratio."
I think the ratio has a lot to do with value, and a lot to do with networking vs. broadcasting. Some folks are definitely on Twitter not to aggressively use Twitter, but simply because they are famous and so is Twitter. Others have a tight connection to their followers, because they are really tuned into the tone and culture of the medium.
I also think that these ratios are going to expose again the ridiculousness of the suggested users that Twitter feeds to new members. With a high percentage of Twitter newbies not sticking around, the high follower counts for suggested users are grossly inflated in terms of their intrinsic value to the community at large.
Enough narrative, on to some numbers:
Erin Kotecki Vest (QueenofSpain) 1/39
Aaron Brazell (Technosailor) 1/26
John P Kavanagh (Jonnerz) 1/696
Robert Scoble (Scobleizer) 1/30
Chris Brogan 1/39
Govwiki 1/32
Jack Dorsey 1/984
Mark Drapeau (Cheeky_Geeky) 1/37
Erica Holt 1/44
Gary Vaynerchuk (Garyvee) 1/421
Scott Horvath (1/24)
Ari Herzog 1/6!
If you're familiar with many of these names, you may join me in noticing that the ratios seem not to scale. It simply may be impossible to keep a tight network going after 100k followers. Also, Lists are very new so may not have settled out yet as a metric. That said, they also haven't yet been gamed like follow counts (down with the SUL!). A few more quick observations: Dumping trash followers tightens your network. The founder of Twitter's ratio looks like that of an MLMer. Even a robot can build a tight network on Twitter.
What are you seeing?

~ Adriel Hampton is a San Francisco public servant and host of the Gov 2.0 Radio podcast.

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