Are We a Bunch of Twitter Snobs?

Or Are You a Big Crybaby?

By Published on .

At least a couple of commenters on our recent post "25 Media People You Should Follow on Twitter" called us "Twitter snobs only following a few people."

"Do they not get what Twitter really is?" one asked.

"It's good Twitter etiquette to follow your followers," another agreed.

If that's true, we are varying degrees of rude. Right now Assistant Managing Editor Ken Wheaton* has 1.2 followers for every person he's following, a relatively even ratio. Digital Editor Abbey Klaassen has 5.4 followers for every one she's tracking. And our media reporter, me, has 14.3.

Ashton Kutcher, for an extreme comparison, has more than 12,000 followers for every person he follows.

What's your ratio? And are you a good person or bad? What about us?

Before you answer, consider some potentially mitigating -- or aggravating -- dynamics.

  • Men have 15% more followers than women, according to new research by a Harvard MBA student and an assistant professor at Harvard Business School.
  • "Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users follow each other," they wrote. "This 'follower split' suggests that women are driven less by followers than men, or have more stringent thresholds for reciprocating relationships."
  • Some Twitterers, both men and women, have followed as many people as possible, knowing a fair share will follow them back and run up their follower count as a result. Some even then went back and stopped following a ton of them, making themselves look, they hoped, really popular.
Then again, there's no way 2 million people are actually monitoring Ashton's tweets. Many people who try Twitter don't make it a habit, producing something like a 60% abandonment rate, according to a Nielsen Online estimate. So the counts include a lot of phantom followers on all sides.

Speaking of Ashton, the much-touted Lord o' Twitter may not get what Twitter "really is." He's held up as some sort of genius of social media, when what he's doing is actually broadcasting, not trying to nurture real interactions with his followers. Reporters frequently do something similar, although maybe we shouldn't.

A lot of this has to do with how a person uses Twitter. When you check Twitter, are you sticking your hand in the river to see what you catch? Are you trying to stay on top of your group's every update? Are you using a Twitter app like Tweetdeck, which helps when you're following hundreds of people, or just Twitter.com? Are you maybe spamming people with unwanted direct messages and using auto-follows or other apps that allow you "cheat" at Twitter?

What are you doing there? What should we be doing?

*And now a note from Ken Wheaton: As the guy with one of the more even Twitter ratios, allow me to say this: Get over it already. I might not appear to be a Twitter snob, but I am a big enough jerk to tell you to suck it up! Ha! But seriously, quit crying. You know what seems like the central message of these complaints is? It's the same thing with most Twitter-related complaints: "You don't follow me and you don't use Twitter the way I, Self-Appointed Social Media Guru, use Twitter." Better to be seen as a snob than a self-absorbed whiner, I say. There's no crying in Twitter.

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