May 17, 2009

Twitter KPIs, Including The Twitter Quality Score (TQS)

We hear an awful lot about Twitter, don't we? @Oprah is on Twitter, with more than a million followers. CNN Breaking News has 1.4 million followers. It seems like you can solve all of your marketing woes by simply having a presence on Twitter. And then, you're reminded that customers buy from you because they like the merchandise you sell.

Of course, there's the rest of us, the 3% of the United States population that have a Twitter presence, and have somewhere south of a million followers.

@minethatdata is a tad north of 500 followers. But even with a modest audience like mine, there are many interesting metrics / KPIs that can be derived from the profile of those who follow me. Let's see what the faithful 500 look like:

Median Number Following = 281.
Median Number Followers = 273.
Median Number Updates = 158.

These are humble numbers, folks. And there's nothing wrong with humble numbers. Few people publish numbers like this, nobody would pay any attention to Twitter if this were the published promise of the tool. The numbers reflect the reality of the Twittersphere, not the reality of the Twitterati. And it's just fine, isn't it?

Let's put the number of people my audience follows into decile cutpoints.
  • 1st Cutpoint = 39.
  • 2nd Cutpoint = 73.
  • 3rd Cutpoint = 123.
  • 4th Cutpoint = 190.
  • 5th Cutpoint = 281.
  • 6th Cutpoint = 406.
  • 7th Cutpoint = 624.
  • 8th Cutpoint = 993.
  • 9th Cutpoint = 1844.
Similarly, let's put the number of followers my audience has into decile cutpoints.
  • 1st Cutpoint = 33.
  • 2nd Cutpoint = 67.
  • 3rd Cutpoint = 114.
  • 4th Cutpoint = 186.
  • 5th Cutpoint = 273.
  • 6th Cutpoint = 386.
  • 7th Cutpoint = 544.
  • 8th Cutpoint = 888.
  • 9th Cutpoint = 1321.
At the 7th cutpoint, the number of followers and the number of those followed begin to diverge. It's darn hard to encourage large numbers of people to follow you! Also notice that the top decile for followers has at least 1,321 followers ... a credible number, but not what the Twitterati might have you believe (the top user had more than 600,000 followers ... @zappos).

Here are the decile cutpoints for the number of updates:
  • 1st Cutpoint = 8.
  • 2nd Cutpoint = 25.
  • 3rd Cutpoint = 54.
  • 4th Cutpoint = 91.
  • 5th Cutpoint = 158.
  • 6th Cutpoint = 254.
  • 7th Cutpoint = 370.
  • 8th Cutpoint = 687.
  • 9th Cutpoint = 1,111.
There's a lot of diversity here. We have folks who update infrequently, we have folks updating daily, and we have folks updating ten times a day.

Let's see if we can draw inferences from the metrics / KPIs.

I created a very simple model, trying to predict the number of followers based on how many people others follow, how many updates a person has, and the order in which the individual chose to follow me (1 = 1st, 500 = 500th). Here's the equation:
  • Followers = 55.5 + 0.788*#Following + 0.161*#Updates - 0.128*Order.
Let's discuss the business intelligence embedded in this equation. Remember, one key reason we build models is to gain business intelligence, not necessarily to predict the future.
  • For every 100 individuals you follow on Twitter, you'll earn 79 followers.
  • For every 100 updates you have on Twitter, you'll earn 16 followers.
  • Each additional follower you earn tends to have fewer and fewer followers ... to be expected as a social media tool grows in popularity.
Your mileage may vary ... just do the work and see what the data tells you!

I was very interested in the relationship between updates and followers ... each blog post I write results in 1.5 followers. Each Twitter update results in 1.1 followers. For my audience, each update results in 0.16 followers. No numbers are good or bad ... they're just interesting to track and to think about, and they are representative of the objective of the user.

The relationship between followers and following folks is interesting. The data strongly suggest that if you want to build an audience, you follow other individuals, the current "best practice". I do not execute this strategy, simply because I want to "test" alternate strategies.

Let's create a new KPI, called Twitter Quality Score (TQS), calculated as (#Followers / #Following). The "best" Twitterers, in terms of content, should have more Followers than those Following them, leading to a Twitter Quality Score (TQS) of 1.01 or greater. Here are the decile cutpoints for the TQS:
  • 1st Cutpoint = 0.49.
  • 2nd Cutpoint = 0.60.
  • 3rd Cutpoint = 0.67.
  • 4th Cutpoint = 0.77.
  • 5th Cutpoint = 0.84.
  • 6th Cutpoint = 0.93.
  • 7th Cutpoint = 1.03.
  • 8th Cutpoint = 1.21.
  • 9th Cutpoint = 1.64.
Clearly, it is hard to build an audience ... 70% of my followers follow more people than follow them.

The data suggest that if you want to look for quality, look for a Twitter Quality Score of at least 1.50, if not greater. If you see a TQS value of this magnitude, then the author is probably publishing quality content that is appreciated by the Twitterati. Pay close attention to a TQS of 6.00 or greater, these values are in the top 2% of my following.

Finally, I look at every individual who follows me on Twitter. Here's what is interesting:
  • Those who hire me are Catalog CEOs, then Retail CEOs, then Online Marketing CEOs.
  • Those who follow me include Entrepreneurs, Web Analysts, Members of the Vendor Community, Online Marketers, Data Miners & Business Intelligence Analysts, Retail Marketers, E-Mail Marketers, and last = Catalog Marketers. The relationship is nearly opposite of the folks who I am purposely speaking to, in order to make a living.
Twitter may be a flash in the pan, it may be a valuable marketing tool, it may be a place where folks chat. Regardless, Twitter is a wonderful laboratory to experiment in. Build the KPIs for your own following, or do this type of study with your favorite Twitterer to see what the data tells you. No Twitter metrics are good or bad. Simply explore the data, folks!


  1. From one data geek to another, well done!

    As you mention, there's a tremendous variance across Twitter accounts in these metrics - I'm sure there are many important patterns, but we need more data.

    Our B2B online marketing Twitter account ( has a TQS of 13.5 right now. While I do believe we're tweeting quality content, some of our high score is due to the fact that we only follow people on Twitter who tweet content we find interesting. Its just not possible to pay attention to tweets from thousands of people and I've never been a believer in the "follow someone so they'll follow you" approach. Regardless of the business, I've never heard a count of known people who ignore you considered a KPI.

    I've added your post to our new B2B social media page ( where we're aggregating the best strategy advice, tactics, case studies and metrics. On that page, you'll also find monthly updates on the development of our Twitter account and the Twitter KPIs / analyses we've done.

    Again, thanks for posting this and I look forward to seeing future updates.


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