Analyze your followers

If you were stuck on a desert island, and could only follow 150 people on Twitter, who would you follow and why?:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

If you’re thinking about how to streamline using Twitter, Vladis Krebs offers excellent advice in “So Many People, So Little Time.” He recommends using social network theory to design your Twitter following strategy. (Following = people whose Tweets you read.) It boils down to following the few to find the many!

OrgNet, Vladis Krebs

It isn’t about following thousands and thousands of friends on Twitter. We don’t have the time or brain cells for that. Don’t just pick an arbitrary number and start pruning. It isn’t about finding a small number of people who have large networks either. It’s about finding people who are connected to different social circles and

following them. (Of course you have to be interested in what information or conversations they are sharing Twitter, too). Identifying these people or what Krebs calls “nodes” is core of social network analysis.

And you need to build some redundancy in your network so you have a few multiple paths to people and ideas of interest to you.

He explains why this approach is efficient:

And this is why I follow so few people on Twitter! For the time invested, I want maximum return. I use the redundancy of connections, between the many social circles I am interested in, to my advantage. I follow a select group of people that give me the same access as following someone in every group. Follow the few to reach the many!

Because I have chosen them carefully, I want to actually read the tweets of the people I follow. A small part of my “following network” is always in churn, but the number of people I follow on Twitter never exceeds 100 [currently I follow about 70]. Those who follow thousands of people readily admit that they can not read the fire hose of tweets they get every day.

Strategically I am building a small, yet efficient, group that reaches out into the many diverse information pools I am interested in. I know I am finding good people to follow on Twitter by the number of great exchanges that emerge on many topics. Think before you follow, use your time and ties wisely!

This is a shift from earlier debates about the optimal number of people to follow on Twitter and social conventions. There was considerable discussion about the following to friends ratio (the number of people whose tweets you read compared to the number of people who read your tweets) and whether you should follow everyone who follows you. This can create a lot of noise as Louis Gray points out.


Twitter, more than any other social networking application, lends itself to network analysis. Krebs has had some very important things to say about this before. Using these tools to connect to a few major connectors in each group more efficiently moves information around in less time.

The key is actually determining who those people are but current tools go a long way towards helping accomplish this. Social network analysis can help Twitter become even more of a useful, daily tool than it is.

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