At first glance, our Twitter account, @TechCrunch, doesn’t have much in common with @BarackObama‘s. He’s the President, we are a lowly tech blog. His staff Tweets out quotes from his speeches, we Tweet out links to our stories. He has 5.3 million followers, we have 1.4 million. But according to social media analytics firm Sysomos, both of our followers have the same average authority—2.4 on a scale of 0 to 10.
The average is so low because the law of large numbers starts to take hold with accounts above one million followers. The authority ranking is based on how many followers each person has compared to how many people they follow, as well as how active they are in terms of retweeting and other factors. Basically, if you are passive and have no followers, you get a score of 0 (these are the Twitter bots that bring down the average), but if you have a lot of followers, follow only a few people and retweet a lot, you get a higher score.
Sysomos looked at three different types of popular accounts (celebrities, news organizations, and “social media heavyweights”). Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher (@Aplusk) and Britney Spears have the highest number of followers (5 million and 4.8 million, respectively, but the lowest average authority scores (1.8 and 1.3, respectively). News organizations like the New York Times and TechCrunch have a slightly higher average, at 2.2 and 2.4, respectively. But the accounts with the highest authority followers belong to the “social media heavyweights” like @steverubel, @chrisbrogan, and @jowyang. These are all social media consultants and PR experts. They have fewer followers (42,000, 140,000, and 65,000, respectively) but those who do follow them, not surprisingly, tend to retweet more and have higher authority as measured by Sysomos. You can see the distribution of authority is bunched closer to the middle (see below).
Measuring authority by number of followers is flawed, but it is an easy number to track. A better measure is to find out how much each follower amplifies a message or set of messages. I’d like to see a similar study of follower authority from TunkRank or Klout, which measure influence in different ways..