7 Indicators of Twitter Influence

by David Armano on Mar 28, 2011

Twitter Influencer MetricsOriginally published as a Quora answer

The NY Times recently reported what regular users of Twitter already know. Follower counts are an indicator of influence but not a very good one. And yes, followers can be and are gamed frequently with the assistance of shady web services.

Here are a few more critical Twitter influence indicators:

1. Lists

Being included on lists gives us two clues. 1. Being included on thousands or more signals that you are visible. 2. The categories people use to classify you tells you something about the topics you have influence in: This is known as “topical influence” and it’s really what counts in influence.


These tell you something about how willing people are to amplify your messages and help them spread. A retweet essentially says “this is something I want my network to see”. It’s Twitter’s version of viral loops.

3. @Replies

These signal how much others want to talk to you or intentionally tag you, and also serves as an indicator for how willing you are to engage and tag others. Less replies signals less social interactions and more broadcast.

4. Follower Ratio

Generally, if a user on Twitter follows a disproportionate amount of users than follow them, it signals their desire to accumulate followers. Not always, but often. A 50/50 ratio translates to someone following back anyone who follows them, which includes spammers. Twitter users who follow significantly less than are followed indicate some selection process.

5. Tweet volume

This simply indicates how prolific a user is. Those with high volumes who retain high levels of engagement, list counts, retweets, and a healthy ratio are likely providing some type of value. High volume Twitter accounts with suspect ratios, low engagement, etc may have a high noise to signal ratio

6. Favorites

Getting favorited frequently does mean something, though because Twitter users leverage Favorites so differently, it’s nearly impossible to discern exactly what, other than you triggered a behavior (the action to Favorite) for some reason.

7. Quality of connections

The most difficult to quantify and probably THE most important indicator is the quality and RELEVANCE of who follows you on Twitter and who you follow back. Targeting the right audience and earning their attention (and Trust) is ultimately the best (and softest metric).

Follower counts (and ratios) are an indicator, but only one of several and one of the easiest to game.

Post Author

I am currently a senior vice president at Edelman Digital, the interactive arm of global communications firm Edelman. I have 14 years experience in the industry with the majority of my time spent in digital marketing and user experience...

  • Alas, David Armano is forgetting the most important one: quality of tweet (QoT?)
    As long as 2. ReTweets and 3. @Replies aren’t measured by sentiment, there’s no telling what value they add or even subtract
    Same goes for 1. Lists actually, but those are fairly static

    So I’d like to agree with 7. Quality of… – it all

  • quality of tweet (QoT?)=Twitworthy (a takeoff on an old Seinfeld show ;)

  • According to this blog, I am worthless. But I do try to attract quality followers who will retweet me simply by trying to make quality tweets. The ONLY reason I have fewer followers the people I am following is that I follow celebs who I know will not follow me back, and attract a lot of spammers who I will not follow. That will change in time as people come to the realization that I am a fun person to communicate with.

  • I should point out, with regards to the 50/50 ratio, that it would only apply to people who don’t review all of their followers upon arrival.

    I block 50% of the people who follow me, because they are spammers. I follow about 40% of the people who follow me, because they are interesting, and 10% I wait and see. Because of this, I am almost always at a 50/50 ratio.

    A more important ratio, is the Listed:Followers ratio. I want to see it at or above 1:20. In general, this means that the person is cleaning out their followers and is tweeting interesting content which gets them on lists.

    That is my two cents worth.

  • For me, the most important attribute above is the quality of twitter connections. I’m trying to grow my connections slowly with an eye to creating conversation and relationships.

  • Anonymous

    Actually emailing this to myself so I don’t forget to really digest it. GREAT stuff; I’d say more than 50% of Twitter users need it.

  • Anonymous

    Actually emailing this to myself so I don’t forget to really digest it. GREAT stuff; I’d say more than 50% of Twitter users need it.

  • Interesting article and I broadly agreee. I also agree with Brian Meeks, a listed:followers ratio of about 1:20 or higher is the best indicator of quality as it’s not possible to game, like followers.

    I’m also wary of a high follower:friend ratio indicating authority. It’s common with celebrities and institutions, who can be authoritative, but there’s another type of user who can achieve this. The mass-followback, scripted follower, who joins an autolist which skirts below the Twitter API daily limits. They amass say 10,000 followers after trimming away the non-followers daily as they go – then pare the following right back to say 50-100. To an inexperienced Twitter user that ratio can seem attractive. But if they only have 70-100 tweets (*inspiring quotes* and using Twitterfeed or similar, is a giveaway) and are listed say 6-7 times – you know you’re in the presence of a false prophet.

    When editing the Twitter feed, I keep a close ratio of followers to following as the site is about London and a broad topic. Everybody I follow back is interested in London. I’m as likely to talk to someone with 10 followers as 10,000. Very often the most interesting people have few followers, so I keep extensive lists. If you click on one of the ‘Londoners’ lists on a Friday night, you get a crowd-sourced feed of what 500 completely different people are doing and it’s better than any prescriptive ‘going out’ advice. This list side of Twitter is one of its most powerful and under-utlised features. Multiple real time data feeds which are ‘on topic’.

    There’s also an ‘ivory tower’ effect of having lots of followers and not following many back. You tend not to be attuned to what’s happening because your feed is quiet. You often get this effect with celebs and authorities who tweet fairly old news or display a viewpoint, which is out of touch with popular sentiment. For me, very low following is a poor sign, somewhat arrogant even – implying you don’t need or require further information. It’s more work having a busy feed, but that’s the point of Twitter – discovering useful information in real time and passing it around. Yes you can self-publicise, but that’s only half the experience – and I think, the poorer half.

    For me ‘favourites’ may as well be absent. Tweets have a short lifespan, like post-it notes, I don’t want to save and review them later and I know I never will.

    Best thing about Twitter – meeting the people on there in real life. As someone said and popularly retweeted recently: “Facebook is people I know, Twitter is people I want to know.” Harsh, but there’s truth there.

    My tuppence worth.

  • You read my mind, David! Err. rather I should say: Great minds think alike! #7 is absolutely the most important. The rest you can only derive a notion “quality” but the people you connect with and the relationship you build is key to influence. Here’s my take: http://ow.ly/4GJM4

  • Great post. I agree with you on these – especially lists. Other factors that I inspect when checking out someone’s Twitter account are whether they’ve filled out their bio, uploaded an avatar and set their location. These seem so obvious and basic, but so many accounts leave these factors blank – easy indicator of a spam account (most likely). I also like Twitter’s fairly new feature that lets you know if anyone you follow is following that account. If so, it’s likely a more relevant account for you than one with no followers in common (which might indicate that only bots are following this account b/c they used some sketchy service to build followers). Finally, I do a quick scan down their twitter stream to make sure that they’re not linking to the same place in every tweet. Are they holding conversations or just scheduling out marketing messages?

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  • Lisa

    I do review followers and generally follow real people. I don’t follow porn & I improve my ratio by unfollowing inactive users. Is it good to follow large organizations that don’t follow back due to the fact it shows interest & quality?