I started to really get into Twitter about 3 months ago. I had signed up for an account some time before that, but didn't really take a deep interest until I saw other people I knew using the system. I have posted over 1250 message since I started and I see no sign of me slowing down.
I find twitter to be interesting as both a personal communication tool and online marketing vehicle. I see most users utilize it as a combination of both. With that in mind I set out to explore how the top Twitter users harness the power of this tool. I made use of Twitterholic and other Twitter tools to grab data for my comparisons.
Your number of followers is your effective reach on Twitter. Kevin Rose (Founder of Digg.com), Leo Laporte (Tech Guru) and Barack Obama (Presidential Candidate) currently have the most reach, with Kevin having just over 43,000 followers. The number of followers trails off quite quickly, with number 100 (user TC) having just over 4400 followers, an almost 10x difference.
Your number of friends is the number of people that you are following. The top 3 users with the most friends are Juan Carlos Arzola (56,974 friends), Barack Obama (40,153 friends) and Jason Calacanis (31,570 friends).
This is where things start to get interesting, the users with the most friends are clearly using Twitter as a marketing tool over just personal communication. I am not sure how many of you have more than 50,000 "friends" but I don't think I could keep up with that many people. Rather, these users are adding friends with the intent of getting a reciprocal follow, thus building the users sphere of influence and effective reach through twitter. The growth isn't organic or viral it is incubated and forced.
The marketing intent is easy to see when you take a look at one of these users twitter content. Barack Obama has never addressed a single message to another twitter user (by typing @username). Jason Calacanis has plugged Mahalo 180 times in the past 2 months, that’s an average of 3 Mahalo tweets per day.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with using Twitter as a marketing tool. To the contrary, I think most bloggers are using Twitter to market themselves and their content in some way. I myself promote IZEA through my personal Twitter account on occasion, and it does indeed drive traffic to the site (I will tweet this very post). That is one of the reasons I would want to be a Top 100 Twitter User, to drive more traffic.
So how do you top the list? At first glance the answer seems to be to follow a lot of people. Jason Calacanis is number 5 on the list and he has certainly done that, so has Barack Obama. But it’s not that simple. In a perfect world you would get a friend for every person you follow, but that usually isn’t the case.
Kevin Rose only follows 85 friends. 85 friends / 43505 followers is a pretty incredible ratio. Compare that to Juan Carlos Arzola who has 56974 friends / 5921 followers, a ratio of 9.6. My guess is that Carlos is following just about everyone he comes across, but it seems that people aren't really interested in what he has to say.
So how do you get to the top? If you aren't a well known CEO or a Presidential Candidate it is going to take some work. You can certainly try the "follow everyone" gameplan and you might just get lucky. But at the end of the day I think it comes down to the same core principles as blogging. Create good content, write often, engage in conversation and be an active participant in the community. It may take a little longer to get there going the old fashioned route, but in the grand scheme you will have a higher quality audience who is engaged with you, clicks on your links and responds to your tweets.
Ohhhh... btw you can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/tedmurphy
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