Being a Suggested User Leads to Thousands of Twitter Followers

Ever since Twitter started suggesting accounts to new users, it was clear that those on the suggested users list were gaining thousands of followers. Setting aside the fact that number of followers is a poor gauge of influence (see our Twitter report for details), I wanted to know how many followers a suggested account gains by appearing on the list.

I took the set of accounts that were added to the suggested users list during the last two months, recorded their number of followers the day before they made the list (Initial # of followers), and tracked what happened a week, 2 weeks, and a month later. From an initial set of just over a hundred accounts, I was able to gather sufficient data (using Twitterholic and Twittercounter) on 80+ suggested users.

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On average, a suggested user gained about 53,000 followers a week after first appearing on the list. In comparison, on average the same users added “only” 1,900 followers the week prior to their appearance on the suggested users list. The effect persisted over time: on average, the same users gained about 198,000 followers one month after being on the list. (I captured the persistent increase in followers visually, using statistical distributions.)

The effect is even more pronounced for accounts with large numbers of initial followers. In the table below, I compared the bottom quartile (at most 3,000 initial followers) with the top quartile (at least 25,000 initial followers):

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Two weeks after appearing on the list, the bottom quartile gained about 93,000 followers. In contrast, the top quartile gained 105,000 followers over the same 2-week period.

The above results quantify what is common knowledge: becoming a suggested account is a quick way to boost one’s number of followers. But there are only 200+ accounts on the list of suggested users, what about the rest of Twitterdom? As our resident Twitter expert Sarah Milstein points out, there are techniques that let users extend their reach (apart from obsessing over how to increase their number of followers). Check the Twitter book for specific suggestions.

(†) In the absence of a control group, I’m left with observing how many followers the suggested accounts added the weeks before and after making the list. As expected, I get similar results when I use the MEAN instead of the MEDIAN. Having looked through enough suggested accounts, I’m confident a formal study will lead to the same conclusion: becoming a suggested user translates to thousands of additional new followers.

(‡) Once an account appears on the list of suggested users, it tends to remain there. Regardless, the few who were taken off seem to enjoy similar boosts in number of followers.

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  • http://www.ships-info.info Ships

    I started using twitter soon. I never liked social bookmarks, but this one is really easy, but not so useful in my eyes. hundreds of people are just posting links inside. I have several accounts with about 40,000 followers and they are bringing almost nothing to me.

  • http://hallicious.com Chris Hall

    Awesome analysis Ben. Thank you.

    Do you know if anybody is looking at how follower count translates to level of influence? Or if it does, even?

    From a marketing standpoint, I would think that reach would scale with follower count. But I’m really interested in people using social tools to influence and ultimately change behaviors…

    -chris

  • http://www.ezeetax.com Zahid

    Wow, good analysis. I don’t think having thousands of twitter follower does anything for you. If you are not interesting and only try to promote your own products or websites, it won’t matter how many followers you have.

  • http://spiral-scratch.blogspot.com Liz

    I’m tracking changing follower numbers (% growth) for the Top 500 Twitter users since early April so it is nice to see what conclusions you’ve come up with. The Suggested Users list almost completely coincides the top users (by follower number) except for a few popular favorites like @StephenFry.

    You know, the Suggested Users list is now 217 names! It would be better, in my opinion, if they refreshed it, say 20 new names weekly. It would end this overwhelming influence upon determining who is most popular. You look at who, organically, is gaining the most followers each week and it’s like night and day from the Suggested Users list.

  • http://www.yachtblogs.com/ Sailing

    I’ll comment on this post now (2 years later) because its a good perspective on twitter now that its more established. I tweet all of my posts to Twitter and get 2-3 followers per day, with 3-5 clicks per day. I have about 50 followers right now.