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.
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):
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.