We all seek something different from social media. The author wants a method of getting the word out on their latest book. The corporation wants a way to keep customers informed and connected. The charity wants to reach potential contributors. The church wants a way to keep members informed of the latest events while reaching the lost with The Good News. Whatever your goal though, consider, what does your Twitter Follower Ratio say about you and your organization?
Contributor vs. Consumer
Many people use social media primarily as a means of consuming information. In contrast, some accounts, especially organizations, use it as a tool for disseminating information more than consuming it. These accounts are greater contributors than consumers. Each approach suggests a different ratio. The contributor likely has a larger scale of followers, while the consumer likely follows more accounts.
The scale of your ratio also says a lot about your intent and use of Twitter:
Small Scale (1 to 100): If you have less than 100 followers then you are either just starting out, or very selective about who you follow and use Twitter primarily as a consumer. The small scale user generally is not viewed as a contributor so much as a person who knows how to leverage technology to keep in regular and frequent contact with a select group of individuals.
Medium Scale (100 to 1,000): Users with several hundred followers may be growing their account with an intent to be strong contributors, or be focused on acquiring as many followers as possible and still in the early stages of that plan. Either way, most individuals in this category are likely using the tool as more than a means of keeping in touch with a select group of individuals.
Large Scale (1,000 to 5,000): If your follower volume is in the thousands, you are either a liberal follower as well, or known for using an auto-follow back tool. These tools often drive people to follow you, simply to assure themselves of an incremental follow, regardless of their interest in your feed. It is unlikely you are legitimately following those listed as followers – at least not on a regular basis. After all, in order to read messages from thousands of people, you would need to invest entire days to keeping up with your twitter stream.
Huge Scale (5,000 or more): You are likely either aggressively following others with the simple objective of increasing your follower base as quickly as possible or, you are a strong influencer, admired by many. Even in the latter, you likely used an auto-follower at one time, which drove your numbers up. The exception to this rule is the celebrity, author or other public figure with a large following outside the Twitterverse.
Twitter Follower Ratio
I suggest the order of Following to Followers, based on an assumption that most accounts ultimately prefer a larger number of followers than followed. At least, most accounts that are interested in or concerned about what the ratio says about them would desire the higher number of followers.
More Followers Than Followed: This suggests you are an influencer and one who’s message is received well by others. You are selective in who you follow and frequently recommended by others. If your scale is large, this perspective is reinforced. If your scale is small though, it may also mean you simply use the account primarily to broadcast messages. In other words, you contribute more than you consume.
More Followed Than Followers: If your scale is small, this may mean you’re just getting started. However, if your scale is large, this likely means you’ve been aggressively following others with the intent of increasing your follower base. This may also mean you a re more of consumer than contributor to the conversation.
We’ll use my own account as an example. As I write this, I follow 250 people and I have 425 followers, a 250:425 ratio. Simplifying that number by the greatest common denominator (25), you get a 10:17 ratio (tip: if you don’t know the greatest common denominator, use the GCD function in Excel). As a result, I am in the medium scale (original figure, 250:425), with more followers than followed. This suggests I am contributing more than consuming, but likely still early in doing so.
Twitter Assessment Services
There are plenty of services out there that will conduct an automated assessment of your account. These services will consider more than just your ratio and look into items like how many tweets you sent, how long your account was active, the number re-tweets and times you are included in lists. Two of the most popular services are Klout and Twitter Grader.
Match Your Intent
The point here is not to worry if your ratio suggests you are using Twitter for something other than the purpose you claim. Instead, just know that this is becoming an increasingly addressed concern by some of the world’s leading social media advocates. As social media analytical tools like those mentioned above evolve, I believe auto-follow tools, individuals perceived to do anything possible to increase followers and the like will be frowned upon. Therefore, now is the time to look at these numbers and determine for yourself if action is needed to align your ratio with your message and intent.
Question: So what does your Twitter Follower Ratio say about you?
My ratio is 43:36. Just enjoying the professional development opportunities through twitter. I also enjoy sharing children’s book titles and quotes for education majors. 🙂 I would say my followers are mostly my child lit students. I am a servant leader so I enjoy your posts! 🙂
Sounds great Wendy. Teaching is truly a profession that demands servant leadership from the best in the field. Keep up the great work!
This has been useful as I am new to the
social media wave and this has made things clearer.
Glad to hear it. If you’re new to the space, don’t be concerned if your ratio seems imbalanced. It sometimes takes a while to get it where you want it.
Thanks for your encouraging words. I appreciate that it will
It seems my kids understand this much more than I do but
with perseverance I’ll get there.
Interesting, but… this is my take on ratios. When I see someone who doesn’t follow back, they appear arrogant to me – “I’m better than my followers.” If someone is going to be kind enough to follow me, I’ll follow them back unless I notice they’re just clearly a spambot. I really, really don’t want anyone thinking I’m a pompous and self-important: it would crush me.
This is why I detest the ethic behind Klout and similar tools. They reward people for bad karma practices, like only conversing with those who themselves have a high Klout score for instance – shame on them. I opted out of Klout a few years ago, and haven’t looked back since.
As for reading all those tweets? That’s why I do almost everything with lists and hashtags (via Hootsuite on my laptop and echofon on my iPhone). You’re right, I’d never be able to read all those tweets! It’s a tradeoff I’ve chosen to make.
For my long-form thoughts on this: http://switchandshift.com/teds-twitter-follow-back-policy
Great feedback, Ted. Thanks for sharing. I admit, I still struggle with that fear of seeming pompous as well and I think you provide one very good solution.
Who give’s a rat’s a$$?
I’m currently not sending any automated messages, but I have been doing it. I did it using TweetAdder. But then I stopped. I didn’t get a lot of clicks from it, and I decided that it wasn’t necessary (without actually doing any analysis of why it’s not necessary).
But now I’m thinking that if it’s not spam, and it’s all automated, there are no reasons why we shouldn’t send DM’s to new followers.
I’m curious about SocialOomph, are you using it (and if you are, are you using the pro version?)
Thanks for the comment, Sam. I see you are very interested in Twitter automation and similar tools. The only automation tool I currently use is plugin for my blog to share older posts (from the last year or so). I’ve used other tools in the past, but a lot of them border on the line of “manipulation” – like buying followers, which something I refuse to do. Let me know if you find a tool you really like and why!