How to measure influence on Twitter?

There are many ways and variables to measure influence and effectiveness on Twitter, but one thing is sure, the number of followers is not the only one. Unfortunately it is often the number of followers your executives will be interested in. When we released our Twiplomacy study in June 2014 we found that retweets and mentions from very large accounts hardly generated any retweets.

First of all followers can be bought for as little as US$5 for 10,000 followers. Many social media managers might be tempted to artificially boost their social credibility or to impress their bosses. There is even a web site evaluating the best vendors. But are accounts with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers really influential?

Top 10 Most FollowedHigh profile accounts seem to attract an increasing number of fake Twitter bots seeking legitimacy. It is not surprising therefore that 43% of @BarackObama’s followers are potentially fake.

A more telling measure of influence is the average number of retweets an account receives per tweet. Looking at the Top  10 most followed Twitter accounts we can see a large discrepancy between their actual effectiveness. While Katy Perry has the most followers, her tweets are only retweeted 3,331 times on average, a far cry from Justin Bieber who garners more than 54,000 retweets for every tweet he sends.

Despite @BarackObama’s massive following his tweets are on average only retweeted 1,358 times. By this standard, Pope Francis @Pontifex is by far the most influential world leader with more than 10,000 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account and 6,462 retweets on average on his English account.

Buying 15,000 retweetsHowever, even retweets can be bought as this example from October 2013 shows. Obviously the social media team bought retweets, but failed to buy likes as the tweet was only ever favourited once.

Another sign of Twitter popularity is the number of times an account appears on a Twitter list. Barack Obama is the most listed world leader appearing on 207,722 Twitter lists. The @WhiteHouse and Russia’s Prime Minister @MedvedevRussia appear on 58,914 and 45,779 lists respectively.

We are happy to report that the @Twiplomacy Twitter account appears on 578 lists and we now have more than 21,000 followers. However, the figure we are really proud of is that 68% of our tweets are retweeted and on average 6.94 times. Having said this our colleagues from Burson-Marsteller’s @EuropeDecides who have ‘only’ a third of our followers (6,930 followers) seem to be more effective as 51% of their tweets are retweeted and on average seven times per tweet.

All this is to say that you should not be impressed by large accounts and that it pays to check the Twitter statistics to get the real picture of Twitter influence. PS.: we use Twitonomy.com to check an account’s vital statistics.