The Grand Twitter Experiment Results : Followers up 650%

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Last week, I started ‘The Grand Twitter Experiment.’ The goal of this experiment was to dive into Twitter hardcore for a week and see what happened. Well a week has passed and the results are in. Here goes:

Quantitative Findings

Stats at start ( 8 / 16 / 08 ):

Following: 55
Followers: 16

Stats at finish ( 8 / 23 / 08 ):

Following: 304 (+249)
Followers: 120 (+114)

I have increased the number of people I follow by 452% and generated approximately 40 updates. This effort has contributed to an increase of 650% in followers. My following/followers ratio decreased from 4.58 to 2.53. If you look at that ratio as a measure of influence in your cohort group, that means I have made my channel one of higher influence by reducing this ratio 81%.

Qualitative Findings

– Recognized ‘influencers’ tend to have lower following/follower ratios
– The majority of the people that elected to follow me were people I followed
– I saw a large uptake in followers the first 2-3 days
– This correlates heavily with my initial heavy adds of people I followed
– In the later period of the experiment, follower growth was more linear
– Frequency of messaging did not seem to affect follower growth heavily
– Most of my non-geek friends are not on Twitter (seems SF/NYC-centric)
– It is much easier to communicate one-to-many then to one-to-one

Notes & Misc.

– Increase the people you follow and you WILL get followers
– Frequency of posts does not necessarily increase followers
– There are a bagillion apps that use the Twitter API
– Twitterberry is a great mobile client for Blackberry users
– Twitterfeed is a cool way to hook your blog to Twitter
– Twitter for FB is interesting, but I did not find it particularly useful
– Twittercard is a cool widget to let your blog readers now ‘what’s up’
– Summize rocks as a search utility for Twitter

Future Work

– Rate of meme spread via Twitter
– Implications and impact of Following/Follower ratio
– Efficacy of Twitter vs. FB Newsfeed as promotion tool
– Efficacy of Twitter vs. Friendfeed as promotion tool


If you think about this channel relative to blogging, it is pretty neat. For those of you that blog, you know it is difficult to get 120 people to subscribe in a week to a new blog. Although it is a bit different to subscribe to a blog vs. follow someone on Twitter, the point is clear – Twitter can be a powerful channel.

One of the big uses I found of the tool was the ability to ‘follow’ others. Like Facebook’s newsfeed, Twitter is a great way to keep up with things people in your life are doing. That being said, I think that they face some stiff competition from FriendFeed. I still contend that FriendFeed can reach a broader audience by default. Unlike Twitter, FriendFeed is much easier for ‘passive’ users to contribute, or share. By simply conducting my digital life, I leave a trail of news stories for people to follow. To me, that is extremely powerful and could be disruptive to both Twitter and Facebook if they streamline for a more mass audience.

The feed is extremely noisy. The highest frequency users take most of your page and, rarely, does one scroll through multiple pages. Twitter seems to be optimized for one-to-many communication – for directed communication, there are clearly better tools. Facebook, IM and – of course – email, are all way better experiences IMHO.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed the service and will continue to play with it. It’s fun. But that is exactly the thing the Twitter team needs to overcome. Twitter is fun, not necessary – yet. Twitter has a hopeful future though. They are doing amazing work, getting massive growth in the audiences they serve, and have built a great brand.

Thanks to all the folks that participated in my journey and were kind enough to tweet, im, email, fb, and even call me as I conducted my little experiment. See you in the Twittersphere.

hoomanradfar Written by:

  • John

    Any thoughts on the ratio of guys to girls using twitter? At least with the people you are following, there is probably a 20:1 ratio of the people you follow being guys to girls.

    Is that just because you have more friends that are guys or is it because you found that most people on twitter were guys?

  • Never really considered that. If I had to guess, I would bet that there are more guys than girls on the service. Don't know exactly what the ratio is. The question is, if that is the case, will that damage the growth/adoption of the service. Traditionally, social-networking-type services have been used to enhance the social experience around dating, courting, etc. Hmm…interesting. Good thought.

  • Matthew

    I grew up with AOL, Facebook and MySpace at my doorstep, I've seen them gradually evolve into networks with a heart beat, something alive, with people you know (or not). One could also say the way we used these networks evolved as well. If they cease to evolve they fade into the abyss of internet novelties (i.e. AOL chartrooms / geocities, etc etc.) I look at Twitter and see an interesting concept in its infancy. Where can a network like Twitter become something more? A human ticker doesn't have many places to go. It's concept is already in better use by Facebook (people you know) and MySpace (people you don't know). Facebook does what Twitter does, only on steroids.

    What's the benefit in following someone you don't know on Twitter? Do we care that John in Albuquerque is eating toast? I'll give stalkers or males following females the benefit of the doubt on that one. It's human nature for sites like this. I feel that human sexuality, curiosity, true friendships and groups with a similar belief drive these networks. It makes following people you don't know worth following. Although a 20:1 ratio will burn out interaction because of sexuality, and curiosity real quick.

    Take the infamous AOL chat rooms back in their hay day for example. I could barely enter a chat room or designated topic room without seeing shenanigans like "16F or 20M SINGLE, LOOKING TO PARTY, FROM WHEREVER" or a porn spammer. Let's talk ratio now, soon chat rooms were full of men, and porn spammers. Sound familiar?. MySpace is running through its life cycle on the same note, from a true community, to a pseudo dating site, to a stalker haven. MySpace has a few things up its sleeve to avoid catastrophe though. Groups with similar interests, an outlet for musicians, and the stolen YouTube genius we call MySpace TV; And did I mention its an Ad selling money monger. Not sure if they'll ever go broke enough to turn the lights off. (Only an LA heat wave of 2005 can do that : – )

    The way I see it (opinion talking more than usual) Twitter is nothing more than an AOL 4.0 chat room (and a useful outlet to the world for more than just John eating toast…

    Twitter has a long road ahead of it to become something more than a social experiment. If it does not take that road, something newer and better will take its place, steal its idea and evolve upon it.

    And If I knew what that was, I wouldn't share it with the world : – )

  • Matt, that was a GREAT comment. Thank you SO much for the detailed thought and explanation. That was really a fun/good read.

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  • Nice blog! Thank you 🙂