Common Ground Initiative

New York Times: A Better Way to Measure Twitter Influence

March 31, 2011

The True Measure of Twitter Success

After reading the recent article below from the New York Times, you begin to realize Millions of Twitter followers, although initially impressive, may just be window dressing to a successful Twitter strategy. True influence on Twitter is not calculated by simply how many followers one has, but rather how active followers are with tweets.

Are followers retweeting? Do you they respond and interact with your content? Are they clicking on your links and visiting your website? These are the metrics that actually give you a powerful voice on Twitter. Check out the article from DAVID LEONHARDT of the New York Times to learn more about how to effectively measure success on Twitter. You may be surprised.


A Better Way to Measure Twitter Influence

March 24, 2011
New York Times
A version of this article will appear in print on March 27, 2011, on Page 18 of the Magazine.

Whether you’re a Twitter user like Lady Gaga (millions and millions of followers) or, say, me (2,600 and growing!), you’re always aware of roughly how many people follow you. It’s just how people keep score on the site and compare themselves with friends and colleagues.

But it turns out that counting followers is a seriously flawed way to measure a person’s impact on Twitter. Even one of Twitter’s founders, Evan Williams, made the point to me recently: someone with millions of followers may no longer post messages frequently, while someone followed by mere tens of thousands may be a prolific poster whose messages are amplified by others.

So who are the most influential people on Twitter? We asked the people at Twitalyzer, an independent research firm, to study the question, and they came back with something called the Influence Index. It counts the number of times somebody’s Twitter name is mentioned by other users (including retweets, which occur when one user rebroadcasts another’s message). The Influence Index doesn’t merely measure who’s talking on Twitter, but it also measures how much someone is affecting the conversation. Look below at how low Lady Gaga’s influence score is, for example.

Among the discoveries: It helps to come from one of the four countries where Twitter is most popular — the United States, Brazil, England and Canada. That may explain why there are three unfamiliar names, at least to most Americans, in the Top 10: Stephen Fry (a British actor), Luciano Huck (a Brazilian television star) and Rafinha Bastos (a Brazilian comedian).

Eric T. Peterson, the chief executive of Twitalyzer, points out that some of the most influential users also make a big effort to respond to much less famous people with personal messages. Kim Kardashian falls into this category. President Obama, as you may have guessed, does not.

One last thing: Twitalyzer’s public Web site doesn’t let people calculate their own influence scores. But you can get your impact score, which is a 0-to-100 index that combines influence, number of followers and frequency of message writing. To calculate that, type your Twitter name into the box here.

10 Most-Influential People*

1. Rafinha Bastos

Followers: 1,690,817
Influence: 90

2. Chad Ochocinco

Followers: 1,651,070
Influence: 89

3. Conan O’Brien

Followers: 2,367,928
Influence: 88

4. Stephen Fry

Followers: 2,188,395
Influence: 87

5. Ryan Seacrest

Followers: 3,880,840
Influence: 86

6. Snoop Dogg

Followers: 2,536,996
Influence: 85

7. Barack Obama

Followers: 6,531,868
Influence: 83

8. Rainn Wilson

Followers: 2,168,826
Influence: 83

9. Kim Kardashian

Followers: 6,032,559
Influence: 81

10. Huck Luciano

Followers: 2,663,202
Influence: 77

10 Most Followed People

1. Lady Gaga

Followers: 7,941,444
Influence: 41

2. Justin Bieber

Followers: 7,032,265
Influence: 67

3. Britney Spears

Followers: 6,652,470
Influence: 59

4. Barack Obama

Followers: 6,531,868
Influence: 83

5. Ashton Kutcher

Followers: 6,261,483
Influence: 68

6. Kim Kardashian

Followers: 6,032,559
Influence: 81

7. Ellen DeGeneres

Followers: 5,745,455
Influence: 67

8. Katy Perry

Followers: 5,283,350
Influence: 50

9. Taylor Swift

Followers: 5,020,965
Influence: 38

10. Oprah Winfrey

Followers: 5,013,218
Influence: 40

*Among the 100 most followed individuals on Twitter. All data was collected from Jan. 18 to Feb. 15; follower counts have since gone up.

Head to Head

Sarah Palin

Followers: 401,505
Influence: 39

Newt Gingrich

Followers: 1,308,173
Influence: 13

LeBron James

Followers: 1,357,627
Influence: 80

Shaquille O’Neal

Followers: 3,489,519
Influence: 47

Rick Warren

Followers: 236,054
Influence: 87

Dalai Lama

Followers: 1,313,098
Influence: 75

For this blog post, we also ranked the top five most influential users in four different areas: technology, potential 2012 presidential candidates, religion and sports.


1. Bill Gates

Followers: 2,102,615
Influence: 54

2. Biz Stone

Followers: 1,667,233
Influence: 42

3. Tim O’Reilly

Followers: 1,441,631
Influence: 39

4. Jack Dorsey

Followers: 1,606,820
Influence: 35

5. Tony Hsieh

Followers: 1,773,668
Influence: 20

Republican Contenders

1. Sarah Palin

Followers: 401,505
Influence: 39

2. Mike Huckabee

Followers: 123,168
Influence: 16

3. Jim DeMint

Followers: 70,962
Influence: 16

4. Donald Trump

Followers: 325,571
Influence: 13

5. Newt Gingrich

Followers: 1,308,173
Influence: 13


1. Rick Warren

Followers: 236,054
Influence: 87

2. Joel Osteen

Followers: 160,445
Influence: 87

3. Deepak Chopra

Followers: 401,709
Influence: 85

4. Dalai Lama

Followers: 1,313,098
Influence: 75

5. Joyce Meyer

Followers: 181,281
Influence: 52


1. Serena Williams

Followers: 1,903,261
Influence: 72

2. Lance Armstrong

Followers: 2,731,964
Influence: 50

3. Shaquille O’Neal

Followers: 3,489,519
Influence: 47

4. Dwight Howard

Followers: 1,826,440
Influence: 34

5. Tony Hawk

Influence: 18

Using Twitter to Measure Political Sentiment

February 6, 2011

I stumbled across this very interesting article on how Twitter can be used to track public sentiments in real-time on the New Media Strategies blog. The following post by NMS Senior Online Analyst Mark LeMunyon analyzes Twitter discussion during last week’s State of the Union Address to gauge sentiment and reactions to the speech. Read more about his findings from his post below.

Twitter Sentiment Analysis: 2011 State of the Union Address

By: Mark LeMunyon of New Media Strategies
February 2, 20011 on the NMS Blog

This is small project I whipped together by pulling information off Twitter’s API during the 2011 State of the Union Address, and then running the data through a senitment analysis to gauge audience reaction throughout the speech. The result:

This graph represents the ratio of positive words to negative words over time during the SOTU.

For reference, Pres. Obama’s speech began and ended at approximately 9:11PM and 10:13PM. To compare, here’s a timeline of selected quotes and topics discussed during the speech:

  • 21:18 – Economy, international competition
  • 21:20 – Need for innovation.
  • 21:24 – “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”
  • 21:24 – Government investment in biotechnology, energy
  • 21:26 – “I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.”
  • 21:28 – Education.
  • 21:33 – “We’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.”
  • 21:36 – Immigration reform in regards to education.
  • 21:36 – Tax reform.
  • 21:45 – “If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”
  • 21:54 – Salmon joke.
  • 21:59 – al-Qaeda.
  • 22:01 – Foreign affairs, Obama’s planned trips.
  • 22:03 – Independence of South Sudan.
  • 22:04 – Uprising in Tunisia.
  • 22:06 – DADT, military recuiting on college campuses.

If you’re interested in further comparing the data to the speech, I recommend the White House video of the SOTU on Youtube, which has a full transciption timeline. Simply add 9 hours and 11 minutes to the video time to estimate the time in EST.

The data includes 240,000 tweets which use the term “sotu”, “#sotu”, “stateoftheunion” or “state of the union”, sent between 9:00PM and 10:30PM EST on 1/25/2011.

Every tweet was compared to a list of words with predetermined sentiment scores (from the University of Pittsburgh’s OpinionFinder subjectivity lexicon). Each tweet was given two scores, one for the number of matched positive words and another for number of matched negative words. The scores were then summed up by 10 second time intervals, and a sentiment ratio (total positive words / total negative words) was generated for each 10s interval. The ratio is represented on the above graph as the gray line. The magenta line is a 60 second moving average, and the navy line is a 5 minute moving average.

This methodology is nearly identical to that of a study by Carnegie Mellon (O’Connor et al. 2010), which was featured on Mashable and other blogs. As noted in that study, there are lexicons that may work much better with Twitter, as this one was developed for proper English, which is something of a rarity on Twitter. (“#zomg4reels.”)

Again, this isn’t an extremely rigorous peer-reviewed scientific analysis, but it does provide some interesting fodder for discussion around how people reacted to the State of the Union Address.

Focus on More Engagement Before More Fans

January 14, 2011

Interaction Quality Over Quantity

What’s the most important metric to measure the success of your Facebook page? Total Fans? Wrong, although having thousands or millions of users as fans or “likes” on your page represents vast potential (just ask President Obama), it doesn’t automatically spell success. Bottom line: Your fans are only as valuable as how engaged they are. Don’t get too caught up in the raw numbers of total fans, if your fans are not being activated to become involved with the content of your organization or campaign, then they’re simply just a number, not yet a valuable asset.

Create an Environment for Noisy Fans!

Sports fans know that the loudest football stadiums are not always the biggest. I can personally attest this. I’ve been to football games at both small and large stadiums such as the Rose Bowl where 100,000 fans are in attendance and our very own, Autzen Stadium, where the capacity is about 58,000.

Which is louder? It’s not even close, Autzen is way louder! Despite only having a capacity of 58,000, substantially less than most BCS college football stadiums, Autzen is continually ranked among the loudest stadiums in the nation because the fans are extremely engaged in the game and their beloved Ducks. Facebook pages are not unlike Football stadiums, where it’s not all about the number of total fans, but rather how noisy and engaged they are.

Measuring Engagement

Before you move forward with trying to get more users to like your page, think about how you improve the overall engagement of your existing fans. The is place to start for this is Facebook Insights, the free analytical software that comes with your Facebook page. Insights enable you to continually measure the interaction levels and success of your engagement strategies by month, week and even down to an individual post. The ultimate goal is to get as many of your lifetime Likes or fans to convert to active users in any given month.

Insights Overview

In the Insights example below, 1,279 out of 2,153 (60%) total fans are listed as “Active” because they’ve either made a comment, “liked” a post or viewed a post in the last month, in other words they’re actively interacting with the content. The green arrow under ‘Monthly Active Users’ with the 4.9% represents the increase in Monthly active fans from the previous month. If this number is going down, then you’ll want to see why and evaluate your page content. You can also drill down into interaction levels for individuals post when go into ‘details’ section within Insights.

For a comprehensive guide to using Facebook Insights, check out this Mashable blog post.

Testing Engagement

To achieve better user engagement with your posts try testing various strategies to what works best. Based the results of the performance metrics from Insights, you can then quantify and continually refine what works better through A/B testing of your strategies. Here are some messaging strategies and tactics that you can test to increase overall engagement:

  • Pose a Question and Encourage Discussion: Based on the content of your post, ask users what they think. For example; if you’re posting a news article, insert a question about it and ask for feedback from your fans.
  • Create Two Way Dialogue: Respond and thank fans who interact with posts and provide feedback. This will send a message to other page members that interaction is valued and encouraged.
  • Ask For Tips and Advice: Ask your fans for advice and tips on a current issue, policy position or problem your campaign or organization may be experiencing. Facebook users like to help and offer insight when they’re asked, plus it makes them feel valued.
  • Be a Resource: When you come across helpful or insightful content related your campaign or industry, go ahead and post it to your Facebook page because it’s likely your fans would also find it interesting. Don’t assume everybody already saw the content or article, pass it along.
  • Timing: Play around with what time of day you post and test what results in better interaction. Is it best to post during the day? Early morning? Late night? Depends on the demographics of your audience; teenagers will be up late on Facebook, while older adults may be on at 5:00am.
  • Let the Audience Choose: After you post a photo album, ask fans which is their favorite photo or post an opened question, like what’s the best part about being a Republican…
  • Mix It Up: Don’t be afraid to post content that’s not related to your industry or message. Remember, not everyone wants all politics all the time, use relevant current events to put a human face on your Facebook page. If the Civil War game is this weekend, ask your fans who going to win the game.

What did I miss? What are some strategies that you found that work for your organization? Please share and ask.