April 25, 2008

What's Your Twitter Noise Ratio?

The many thousands of people who use Twitter do so in wildly different ways. Some use it to deliver minute by minute updates of their daily activity. Others use it to hold conversations with friends and peers using the service. And still, a good percentage of people use Twitter as a broadcast medium to announce items, but not necessarily to engage. Meanwhile, as Twitter has grown, its not uncommon to see people either following, or being followed, by thousands of other users. Some do so reciprocally, while others are more discerning.

I feel there are different categories of Twitter users, from those who have a listening audience, measured by a high "followers" to "updates" ratio, those who are engaging, seen with near equal "followers" and "updates", and those who are more noisy, with a lot more "updates" than actual "followers".

Taking a look at 48 Twitter users I either follow or engage with, I found the average number of "tweets" per "follower" was almost exactly 1, measuring at 1.02. But the ratio of updates to followers varied widely, from the sleepy 0.06 (@om) to the firehose-like 9.75 (@corvida). And surprisingly, those Twitterers best known for creating a lot of noise, like Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis, were quite in line with their number of followers, measuring in with ratios of 0.50 and 0.18 respectively, making their perceived noise to be in fact, a consequence of their engagement.

Download the Microsoft Excel data file

One of the informal guidelines I've used since opening my Twitter account a little over three months ago was to maintain an updates/followers ratio of less than one. I feel if I "tweet" too often, those following will opt out or gain in annoyance. As of today, my ratio is at 0.49, with 318 updates for 644 followers, putting me on the quiet side in comparison to the others I looked at.

A Twitter "Noise" Chart for 48 Users

(Click for Larger Image)

Of note, this was done by hand, via Excel, without fancy algorithms, so it can be assumed to recognize a point in time from Friday, April 25th.

Twitter's Listeners (Ratio of Updates to Followers of Less than 1)

Twitter's Middle Ground (Ratio of Updates to Followers of 1 to 2.0)

Twitter's Conversationalists (Ratio of Updates to Followers of 2.0 to 5.0)

Twitter's Megaphones (Ratio of Updates to Followers of more than 5.0)

This is, of course, a simplistic analysis of a select number of Twitter users. An argument could be made that those with thousands of updates are flat-out noisy, regardless of how many followers they have, but I also believe that being selective in one's tweeting habits can lead to an increasing audience for further conversations. If there's an imbalance between how often somebody is tweeting and how many people are choosing to follow them, it could be the noise has grown too loud.

Have any better examples of odd ratios between total number of Twitter updates and total Twitter followers? With thousands and thousands of users, there's no way this 48-person list gets everybody. What's your Twitter noise ratio?