[Social Broadcast] Publishers are Equal, Regardless of Followers

Early last week, All Things D reported on a study released by Baracuda Labs about the nature of Twitter users. A lot of the statistics made complete sense to me; the most telling was that nearly 3/4 of all Twitter accounts they surveyed (Baracuda looked at 19 million) had posted less than 10 status messages since registering – and 34 percent of Twitter accounts hadn’t shared a single tweet. Twitter CEO Evan Williams noted yesterday during his South by Southwest Keynote, there are 50 million tweets a day, and the accepted laws of Internet publishing and power law distribution indicate that it makes sense that the bulk of these messages are not coming from the plurality of users. It’s more likely that a few contribute a ton, while a ton contribute little to none.

But then something irked me from a logic sense, and it’s this chart that was included in Baracuda’s research as well as the ATD post:

This chart is a depiction of the number of tweets shared by accounts with certain amounts of followers. It’s mildly out of proportion to what you’d expect the distribution to be. At the center are the highest content contributors, meaning that there is no direct relationship between the most popular Twitter users and the amount of times they share messages.

Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite question: why does this look this way? Or, put in more specific terms, why aren’t those with the biggest speakers using them the most often? Without fully testing it, my best guess involves history.

See, we’ve been living in an era of media conglomeration where having the most eyeballs mean you have the prerogative to be the most important publisher. Everything from the ad dollars needed to support a media operation to attracting the most-credentialed, experienced talent to create content involve who has the biggest reach. You can’t waste time with a platform designed to talk with 10,000 if you need to reach millions. That thinking is what leads to the belief that users with few tweets but ridiculous amounts of followers can provide a significant influence. It’s much more likely that the 73 percent who hasn’t interacted much with the service are simply following accounts in the latter, driving up the number without justifying the publishing role of those users.

From a publishing and content perspective, Twitter is blind to how many followers you have. There isn’t a switch or barrier that says, “Well, you only have 47 followers, so that means you can’t tweet again until next Thursday. Thanks though!” You can publish whatever 140 characters or less you’ve got at that moment whenever you want – for better or for worse. That’s what makes it fascinating, that there are those who are turned to as influencers within that channel by way of how they use the service.

The outliers in the chart above are those with excessive amounts of followers (most likely celebrities or other well-known personalities) who couldn’t possibly interact with their entire group and earned their following based on offline success, not publishing on the Twitter channel. You need to move further down to those who are just known Twitter publishers and then the frame starts making sense.


2 Comments on “[Social Broadcast] Publishers are Equal, Regardless of Followers”

  1. Dave C. says:

    Also, more isn’t always better.

  2. Dave Levy says:

    I agree. “Bigger is Better” is so painfully old school media thinking.

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