How can everybody have more Twitter followers than “followees”?

I noticed that most people on Twitter seem to have more followers than “followees.” (Yes, I know this observation has no scientific validity.) So I decided to do some not-exactly random sampling.

  1. On the Twitter website, I searched for “Davis, CA” and looked at the profiles for the first 15 people who had activity within the last month. 12 of them had more followers than followees (for a total of 135 followees and 210 followers.)
  2. I checked the profile for Robert Scoble, who now follows 21,124 people and has 26,374 followers. I did a random sampling of the first two pages of his followers list, checked their profiles, and found that all of them had a follower:followee ratio of at least 6 to 1 (and some at least 10 to 1.)

How do these people, most of whom seem to be not famous (judging by their profiles and their blogs/websites), get such a large follower:followee ratio? Obviously they are very good at social networking, but shouldn’t they be following more people?

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4 Responses

  1. I figured it out: it’s all the spammers. It’s the people who create accounts and follow two thousand people in the first hour, then get banned from Twitter. But people hardly ever go through their followers to “clean out” the non-people and banned accounts, so their reputation gets inflated, at least when you’re just glancing at numbers.

    I don’t think Robert Scoble would fit into that theory though; I think all the big Twitters/internet personalities follow each other.

    Related: Hubspot has an interesting tool: the Twitter grader (http://twitter.grader.com) similar to their website grader, judges the reputation of your Twitter account according to the number of Tweets you have, the number of people you follow, the number of followers you have, and the number of followers of your followers.

  2. I realized that sometime after I wrote this post. I started getting spammers following me. Good thing that I checked their followers to followees ratio and didn’t follow them. After a while, some of them unfollowed me.

    I’ve tried the Twitter grader. It says I’m pathetic 😉

  3. Yeah, none of my personal followers actually know me; most of them started following my randomly, probably after they saw a recent tweet on the “everybody” page or they found me through someone else. A couple other started following me after I started following them. But I’m okay with it; I mostly use Twitter as a way to update my Facebook status. Most of my friends don’t even use it.

  4. I don’t hang out on Twitter that much either – I mainly use it to announce blog updates or where I am (via brightkite.) It would be interesting to find out how all your followers found you.

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