Watch out Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Kanye West and all you other celebrities whose number of Twitter followers I have to hear about on the news! (Yes, a celebrity’s number of Twitter followers counts as news these days. You are allowed to weep.) Your reign may finally be coming to an end!
Twitter co-founder Evan Williams indicated that the number of followers a Twitter user has may soon take a backseat to the user’s reach, while speaking at a Buzzfeed panel in Manhattan Monday.
Williams called retweets “the thing I think would be more interesting than followers,” since just simply having a lot of followers "doesn't capture your distribution."
“The dream metric is how many people saw your tweet,” Williams said.
Williams, who is the former CEO of Twitter, holding the title from 2008 until 2010, now sits on the company’s board of directors. Given his position inside the company, Williams has inside knowledge of what plans Twitter has for its future, and he seemed to indicate that a change would be coming soon, though he he stopped short of going into too many specifics.
"I'm on the board, so I shouldn't say too much, but I will,” Williams joked.
What he would say is that since Twitter unveiled the changes to its API in August, which placed new restrictions on third-party apps, Twitter now has increased access to data that will allow it to measure influence in other ways.
In its API, Twitter put in place lower rate limits, authentication, and certification requirements for those using its service and said it will require that large application get direct approval from the company before activating.
Applications with at least 100,000 users will have to work directly with Twitter on their product, policies and service agreement. Those that already have more than 100,000 user can only grow to 200% of their current size before they will contact Twitter.
Given that Twitter now has greater control over Twitter apps, it can more easily see where Tweets are going. For example, Twitter can now “measure whether or not a tweet was requested in a timeline,” Williams said. If a third party were managing that timeline, though, Twitter would not have access to that information.
Twitter is not the first to realize that the number of followers is not the best way to measure user influence.
Back in August, social audience measurement platform PeekAnalytics figured out a way to determine how influential a person is across a slew of social networks, basing it on “pull quotient,” number of followers and network size.
Pull quotient is the number of followers a person has, multiplied by how many people are in multple networks of those who are following that person. That way, it becomes now just about how many people are following that person on Twitter, but how far their message is able to be spread across the internet.
Network size is the average number of connections that the person’s followers have across social media platforms.
It is unlikely that the number of Twitter followers would ever stop being counted, or stop being used a metric to determine some amount of influence. In fact, it would stand to reason that those with the most number of followers would still have the most influence, since they would have a high number of retweets.
For example, in the PeekAnalytics study, it was found that Ashton Kutcher was actually the most powerful tech investor on Twitter. Kutcher had a small network size, but his 11 million plus followers made up for that, giving him a big social pull that would allow him to potentially reach nearly 850 million people on social media.
So even though the number of followers may not be the most important factor for very much longer, it will always be one way to measure influence.
(Image source: http://edleaderlounge.blogspot.com)