When 4 Million Followers Doesn’t Mean a Damn Thing11/23/2009 at 08:36 | Posted in Critique, Twitter | 1 Comment
A few nights back, while crawling around on Twitter, I found myself looking into who my friends are following. There I stumbled upon Ashton Kutcher, King of Twitter, god amongst men, with a staggering four million followers. I glanced over some of his tweets which surprisingly lack the banality of most celebrity Twits (see Kim Kardashian) and noticed he linked to a video featuring a man using Kutcher’s office stoop as a toilet. When I got to the YouTube page I saw the video only had about 5,000 views at the time. This made me think: how does someone with 4,000,000 followers only get a few thousand of them to click a link to content you suggest. And not just anybody’s content, your content! So I did a little digging.
At the time of research (evening of Friday, Novermber 20, 2009), Kutcher had some 4,003,207 followers:
And despite the 103 retweets the video had only 15,724 clicks:
So if you do the math, that puts the clickthrough rate at less than 0.4%.
So to give a point of reference, let’s look at the former points leader, Leo Laporte. Leporte was the reigning champ until, seemingly overnight everybody from suburban homemaker to local TV news reporter was begging you to “follow my Twitter.” Leo is currently clocking in at 149,750 followers, less than 4% of Kutcher (amazing what the Recommended Users List can do for your numbers.)
I then took at look at his most recent bit.ly link:
Here is where things get interesting. This link, which had been retweeted by only 5 others, yielded 4,708 clicks:
This puts the clickthrough rate of just over 3%, nearly eight times the per capita clickrate of the world’s most exposed microblogger. To be fair, Laporte’s link had about a week to stew, but considering Kutcher’s huge number of retweets and how quickly clickrates trail off with time, I think that point is moot.
So what’s the take away? It’s simple. Followers are great, but only if they’re actually following you. Kutcher posted what may be considered a viral-worthy clip and sees only a small percent (per capita) of what a simple link to Laporte’s Facebook page pulled in. Laporte and other early Twitter leaders like him gained their following because people were interested in more than their celebrity. Followers liked to see insight, quirky links, and maybe a little of themselves. The droves following the likes of Kutcher and other 1,000,000+ users are more interested in the pure voyeuristic celebrity of it all. And, it could be argued, are merely numbers, not followers.
What does this mean for the rest of us? It means we need to cultivate a following that will engage with us. We should seek out and follow interesting people, reply to their queries, and question their declarations. In turn, it’s important to do the same: discover and post good links, make insightful comments, and keep self-promotion under control.
Laporte has stated that all you need to be successful is 1,000 die-hard fans and this only illustrates that point. You’ve heard it before, but it’s still important today: Quality, not quantity, is indeed king.