There’s a debate in social media circles on the value of Twitter Followers. Some, like Aliza Sherman at Gigaom in 2009, say that the number of Twitter Followers isn’t important. Others have estimates of the value of Twitter Followers that make no sense at all.
In one case in 2010, an author stated that because Tim O’Reilly has over 1 million followers, but follows 644, he’s more valuable as a follower than Guy Kawasaki, who has, or had, 223,631 followers versus 245,897 people he’s following at the time. Then the author states “Tim O’Reilly may actually follow his followers, whereas I can’t imagine that Guy Kawasaki does.”
Uh, it would seem Tim O’Reilly has the problem of not following people back and to a far greater extent than Guy Kawasaki.
So, you see the point?
Then there’s the view of Chris Keller, blogging about the tool Twitter Grader and the value of followers. He blogs:
One of the factors that goes into measuring your Twitter Grade is the number of followers you have. Many of you will argue that the number of followers is completely irrelevant because it’s so easy to game. There are automated tools to do nothing but acquire followers by following a bunch of people. That’s true. It is easy to spike up your follower count.
However, I would counter with this: If we were looking at two different twitter users, all other things being equal (and I do mean all other things), the one with more followers is likely more powerful and deserves a higher twitter grade.
And let’s return to Sherman’s point, where she claims that follower quality is better than quantity. She rails about having “empty” followers, and goes on about making meaningful connections.
To an extent she has a point, but her blog implies that any large follower count consists of a lot of “empty” connections. And it’s for that reason her take is a bit off the right path.
What everyone seems to miss is that Twitter is a communications device that provides instant ad impressions.
What are “Ad Impressions?”
Ad Impressions are defined as “a single appearance of an advertisement on a web page,” or “display (serving) of an online ad.” If you consider that a Twitter tweet like this one:
Despite all the rumors there r no plans 2 bring #mclobster or mcsushi 2 the US menu. We r working on a new menu item called McWinning.
3 Mar Favorite Retweet Reply
That is essentially an ad for McDonalds that was seen, initially, 2.3 million times, or the number of followers Charlie Sheen had at the time, which is now over 3 million and counting. But let’s not stop there, because we’re forgetting the number of followers, Charlie Sheen’s followers have, which is his “reach.”
One would think locating a tool that properly and mathematically estimates reach would be easy, but it’s not. Twinfluence, which used to have a great system for this, isn’t working properly.
TweetReach produces a result is probably the best estimate of overall impressions, but even then, it produces results that make this blogger do a double take. If I type in charliesheen, TweetReach reports 80,758 people “reached” via 50 tweets, and exposure of 80,987 impressions. What’s weird is Sheen has 3 million followers.
Check it out: Charlie Sheen TweetReach.
Now check this out.
TwitterReach reports that Zennie62 (remember not to include the @ sign in your query) has a reach of 68,589 people via just 50 tweets. I have 28,459 followers as of this writing for what Twitter Reach reports as a total exposure of 461,693 Impressions.
Check it out for yourself: Zennie62 TweetReach.
That calls for a double-take.
The impressions were contributed by 17 Twitterers, with me, Zennie62, leading the way at 415,092.
Why? Well, the obvious difference has to be that I issue tweets including the term “Zennie62,” which is something Mr. Sheen doesn’t do. That means he’s not taking advantage of his base of followers to gain impressions for his Twitter account.
The point is, impressions matter in the Twitterverse.
Even if a person doesn’t react to a Twitter tweet, they see the tweet. We can’t know when they saw it, or even when or if they did, but since it’s out there, it’s visible. Thus, it’s an ad impression, and the more Twitter Followers the submitter has, the more impressions that tweet’s going to get.
That’s why the number of Twitter Followers is important: as the basis for ad impressions. This perspective also gives value to the tweet issued. The more followers you have, and the more you tweet per day, the more valuable the tweets become.
Something else also not considered by Twitter reach analysis systems is that now, with social network search engines like SocialMention.com, and Facebook feeds for Twitter, that Twitter tweet is seen by more people than just in the Twitterverse.
Thus, Charlie Sheen’s McDonald’s tweet really made a lot of people hungry! Think about that the next time you see or make a Twitter tweet of any kind: it travels far and is seen by more people than even current tools can measure. Your tweet can start a movement for or against a person, place, or thing. All it takes is for it to be seen.