Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

How to measure influence on Twitter

My Twitter bio There are a number of sites out there which claim to measure how influential someone is on Twitter, and other social networks. Klout is probably the best known, which gives everyone on Twitter a score out of 100. I’d tell you my score but I opted out in 2011, and, in any case, I get the impression few people bother with Klout anymore anyway.

The problem with using a third-party service like Klout is that it gives you a score, generated using a secret, proprietary algorithm, that is largely meaningless. What would be better is actually looking at individual Twitter accounts yourself, to work out if it’s influential or not. And there are a few things to look for.

1. Has the account been verified by Twitter?

If the account has that magical blue checkmark next to it, then Twitter has verified the account as belonging to whoever it claims to be. This generally means that the person is important, has a reputation that needs to be maintained, and is therefore likely to be influential.

Not all verified accounts are so authoritative though. As I found in November, some verified accounts only have around 100 followers and never tweet, so it’s one factor to be considered, rather than the main indicator.

2. Does it have a large number of followers?

Pretty simple this one – the more people who follow an account, the more likely its messages are able to be amplified. Again, there are limitations here, as any number of shady web sites will sell you Twitter followers. And there are accounts out there with hundreds of thousands of followers that never tweet anything.

3. Is it followed by a large number of verified accounts?

There are some accounts out there with thousands of followers which are not verified. Just being a celebrity isn’t enough, apparently, so some official accounts of well-known and influential people are not verified. But if a lot of verified accounts do follow a particular non-verified account, then that latter account may still be worth paying attention to.

4. Is it retweeted a lot?

When you retweet something, you amplify the message to your followers, who may not already follow that account. If an account has tweets that are regularly retweeted, it’s a sign that the user posts engaging content that his/her followers are happy to share themselves. Therefore, their influence spreads beyond just their own followers.

5. Does the account interact with other accounts?

Broadly speaking, you can put Twitter accounts into two boxes – conversationalists, and broadcasters. I’m mainly a broadcaster – tweeting links, and mostly talking about myself, because I’m a massive narcissist. But others spend more time replying to other accounts, and engaging in a conversation. There’s a lot of overlap, but someone who regularly responds to replies sent to them is more likely to engage with you. This doesn’t necessarily make someone influential, but if they already meet some of the criteria that I mention above, then they may be worth engaging with.

These are just a few things to look out for when trying to find someone who can influence people. If you have a message you want to pass on using social media, such as promoting an event, raising awareness for charity, or just plain marketing – then targeting the correct people can really help.

One final tip is to make sure that the people you are speaking to are relevant to your message. Most Twitter users have some kind of niche, which should be obvious from reading a few tweets (or even just their bio) – ensure that you target the users with similar interests. Not only are they more likely to engage with you, but you’re less likely to get ridiculed for pestering people on social media about something they don’t care about.

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