The more Twitter followers you have…

Ronny Kerr · September 4, 2009 · Short URL:

…the more followers you’re bound to attract, according to Rapleaf study

As Twitter continues to grow, it appears that something else is also expanding: the gap between the most popular users and everyone else.

The latest study from Rapleaf investigated this “popularity gap,” finding some interesting discrepancies just between groups of users in the top 0.1%, 1%, and 10% of Twitter popularity. Completely contrary to Facebook, where having more friends doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have any more friend invitations rolling in than other users, the most followed users on Twitter gain followers at a much faster rate than do less popular tweeters.

Rapleaf on Twitter According to their research comparing average number of followers in March and in June, Rapleaf discovered a marked difference in percentages of added followers. For the top 0.1% of users, average number of followers nearly quadrupled, whereas for the top 1% and 10% groups, average number more than doubled.

That’s a considerable drop-off, and it’s possible that the numbers continue to drop exponentially, meaning less popular users add followers at slower and slower rates.

Another major conclusion of the study finds that users in the top 0.1% have about five times as many followers as those in the top 1% and around 40 times as many as those in the top 10%. This makes a lot of sense considering the rates of follower growth described above.

While some might see these numbers as a mere reflection of Twitter’s surge in popularity earlier this year, there might be something here that reveals what kind of social networking site Twitter really is.

Again, Facebook users probably wouldn't return similar results to these because having more friends shouldn’t mean you’re going to be accepting new invitations all the time. In fact, if you’re already connected to most of your friends, it should demonstrate opposite results. It would be interesting to see this particular study applied to Facebook fan pages, which—with celebrity and company profiles welcome—may mirror Twitter’s functionality better.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.