How to Measure Influence on Twitter

If high follower and fan counts are being inflated, what is the "dream metric" for social media?

Posted: 09/26/2012 04:02 PM EDT

If Twitter is the equivalent to social media high school, then having a high follower count might be like making it to the cool table in the cafeteria. While a high follower count might give Twitterers a sense of importance, Twitter cofounder Ev Williams said that this metric isn’t necessarily the most interesting number on Twitter.

"The thing I think would be more interesting than followers is ... retweets," Williams said at a roundtable conference at BuzzFeed’s office on Monday. “The dream metric is how many people saw your tweet.”

At the meeting, Williams hinted at Twitter considering a new metric to gauge the reach — or engagement — of your tweets. Measuring engagement can give users a better indicator of the influence they have on their followers (in Twitter lingo: influence >>>> popularity).

Enter social media companies such as Klout and PeerIndex, which measure a person’s influence on social media channels.

President Obama’s Klout rating — finally — eclipsed that of Justin Bieber last month, as Klout tweaked its algorithm to “reflect a person’s status in the real world” (Obama’s Klout score is 99; Mitt Romney’s is 91). However, in the battle of numbers versus engagement, Romney beats out Obama on Facebook.

Attention to online engagement has been looked at pretty closely in the media, especially since several “fan-buying” companies popped up over the Web. Like Patrick Dempsey in Can’t Buy Me Love — or Nick Cannon in the 2003 remake — a few dollars can bring you a long way in the Twittersphere. Shopping for fake online friends is easy as browsing the Web (see BuyTwitterFollow.com or FanMeNow.com, among others).

Take comedian Dan Nainan, for example. He had the makings of a successful career: He’d performed for Obama and had millions of views on YouTube, but a big Twitter following wasn’t coming fast enough. So Nainan decided to buy some fans. He purchased nearly 200,000 Twitter followers for just under $500, according to the New York Times.

And finding out who has fake followers is pretty simple, too. StatusPeople uses its own algorithm to break down percentages of fake, inactive and real followers.

Folks on-the-come-up aren’t the only folks with fake followers. While we doubt that Obama is buying followers or that Nicki Minaj is paying for Twitter Barbies or that Oprah is ponying up for followers to jump on her Twitter couch, percentages for these celebs and their fake-follow counts are pretty high, as seen in Forbes’ list of celebrities with the most (allegedly) fake Twitter followers.

In July, Romney and his campaign were accused of buying followers after his Twitter following jumped 100K in one weekend. That aside, Obama’s high Twitter count (20+ million followers and counting) has a fake following of 34 percent. Romney’s following (nearly 1.2 million) is 18 percent fake.



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(Photo: Courtesy of Twitter)

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