Update: a comment from past Epolitics.com contributor Derek Pangallo on Facebook did remind me that people who do a lot of back-and-forth conversation on Twitter will have a different pattern than someone who just posts links to content. That will obviously affect the ratio. As always, Your Mileage May Vary.
Working on a client’s Twitter feed this afternoon, I was once again reminded me of a critical Twitter number: the ratio between a feed’s number of tweets and the number of people who actually follow it. Do you have 30,000 tweets and only 500 followers? That’s a damn good sign that, the words of James Brown, you might be “talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’.”
People follow others on Twitter because they expect to receive value, such as information, humor or a personal connection. But common criticism of Twitter is that people too often tweet the trivial, and a good way to tell if that’s true for any given user is to look at how much he or she talks vs. how many other people bother to listen. Hence the tweets-to-followers ratio, a stark rendering of just how many people have decided to pay attention to someone relative to how often they beg for that attention.
The tweets-to-followers ratio isn’t the only criterion I use when I’m deciding whether or not to follow someone, but I give it a good deal of weight. Other factors: is this someone I want to connect with professionally (or in a client’s case, someone with whom they should be in touch)? Is the account posting information that’s actually relevant, regardless of the volume? If someone posts often and few people listen, but it’s good info for me or my client, then I’d follow.
But if someone’s just cluttering up Twitter without adding value? Run. Run fast. And hope you don’t fall into that bucket very often….