You have 10k Twitter followers? So what!

It’s been the brag of the Twitterati – how many followers you have. Like some Hipster game of Top Trumps, the more Twitter followers you have then the more powerful and influential you must be. Right? Wrong.

A British start up has developed a tool which weeds out the spam, or fake, accounts that make up a percentage of any follower numbers. Company founder Rob Waller explains:

“A fake account is set up to follow people or send out spam. They normally have no followers, but follow large numbers of people. An inactive account is one in which there has been no activity for a while. They could be real people, but we would describe them as consumers of information rather than sharers of information. A good account is everything that remains.” The tool analyses an account’s 100,000 most recent followers, but Waller said they hoped to improve its accuracy. Lady Gaga has only 29% “good” followers, Wayne Rooney 30% and David Cameron 37%. Comedians and entertainers also have a relatively small proportion of “good” followers: Stephen Fry 36%, Alan Carr 39% and Ricky Gervais 34%.” (How many twitter followers do they really have, guardian.co.uk, 26 August 2012)

These statistics are particularly interesting in light of recent findings that certain celebrities and politicians have paid out money in order to swell their follower numbers, a practice which adds spam and fake accounts.

To me, follower numbers appears as redundant a metric as Facebook ‘Likes’. Your company or brand has a large number of followers but how many of these actually engage with your messaging? As Waller’s company found out with Twitter, it’s way off what you see on your follower count.

The same goes for Facebook. Despite having numerous ‘Likes’, brands actual engagement scores are low. Really low. A report from Social Bakers revealed that out of the top ten brands on Facebook the average engagement level for any post was 0.1 – 0.7%.

There needs to be a change in thinking away from followers and Likers, which are easily bought, to metrics such as engagement levels as a more realistic measurement of ‘success’ and performance for companies, brands, and individuals on social media.