Ashton Kutcher has almost four-and-a-half million followers on Twitter.
Who cares? You? No, me neither, but lots of people clearly do, as the media and citizens of Twitter itself have long focused on this metric as something of importance, when, bragging rights aside, it’s actually pretty worthless.
For example, if you take a moment to scroll through Kutcher’s list of followers, you’ll see a large percentage of them don’t even have an avatar. Many have never submitted even a single tweet. And a huge, huge amount are spammers.
So, looking at Ashton’s follower count as a way to measure his status on Twitter, and certainly his influence, is absolutely flawed. While it’s certainly true that celebrities like Kutcher, as well as the similarly well-followed P. Diddy, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest and others on the network will always have a reasonable amount of sway (and command substantial pay-per-tweet perks) simply because they are already well-known to a great many, fame is not, and never should be the same thing as clout. At least, not in the credible sense.
And this, of course, is where mass follow/unfollowing completely fails as a way to build a network. Who cares if you have boatloads of followers if nobody is paying you any attention? Better to have 50 followers hanging on your every word than 50,000 who couldn’t pick your avatar out of a Twitter lineup.
There are many analytical tools that allow me to measure where I rank on Twitter (and you of course take that output with the usual hefty pinch), but what I’d love to see is a tool that ignores me and focuses entirely on my network. That is, the people I’m following, and the people I’m being followed by. Numbers would be crunched, and I would then have access to data such as:
- Who breaks news the fastest
- Who retweets the most
- Who has the ear of those with the most clout
- Who I have the most conversations with
- How often I reply against how often my network replies to me
- How often I answer questions sent to me
And so on. It would also reveal how many of the accounts in this network were real, how many were obviously spammers (it’s easy enough even for a script to work this out), the average followers/following in each account, how many never updated, etc, and the network – my network – would be downgraded accordingly.
(If we could find a way to simply strip out the fake from the real followers on all networks, that alone would have considerable value.)
In-depth analysis could then be calculated that would tally all these measurements within the entire network. That is, how well the network engaged and connected with itself.
The report could also highlight any hidden gems within my network, as well as those people with considerable clout, and others who expressed interests and behavioural patterns similar to my own (that then warranted greater attention).
This may take 24 hours to process, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, I’d rather it took the time to do this properly and produce a report of some value. Because, assuming it was done right (and as usual we’d likely be waiting for several generations), what you’d get is a number, or more likely a series of numbers, that could be properly assessed.
(At least inasmuch as anything that is more science-than-art can be.)
Maybe Ashton Kutcher’s network, with all its spammers, duplicates and one-hit wonders, and a lack of overall engagement, would rate a lowly 46, despite the vast numbers. Maybe your three hundred followers, who you consistently interact and connect with – as do they in their respective networks, too – would rate a 99.
And when we’re looking at value, and at community, I know which one I’d rather be a part of.