If you have a public Twitter account with more than one follower, take a bow. You're one of the most popular users on Twitter!
That's according to analysis of data journalist Jon Bruner at O'Reilly Radar, who waded through the spambots, private accounts, and egg avatars to get a better picture of who actually uses Twitter. Bruner took a random sampling of 400,000 Twitter users for his study, and found that the median Twitter account had just one single follower.
At its IPO filing earlier this year, Twitter claimed it had surpassed 200 million "monthly active users," by its own definition of anyone who has logged in to the site. But Bruner found that plenty of those users are yelling into the void, if they're even tweeting at all. Here's a telling histogram of Twitter users who have tweeted in the last thirty days.
That's a pretty severe curve, with a large number of users at zero or one follower and a big chunk with follower counts in the mere hundreds. By cutting out the many inactive accounts and only looking at users who had tweeted in the last 30 days, Bruner found that having 61 followers put a user above the median, popularity-wise. Over 1,000 puts you in the 96th percentile of active users.
The profile that emerges suggests that Twitter is more a consumption medium than a conversational one–an only-somewhat-democratized successor to broadcast television, in which a handful of people wield enormous influence and everyone else chatters with a few friends on living-room couches.
Hello— Rubel Rubel 1988 (@1988_rubel) December 18, 2013
While this might be concerning to Twitter's founders and investors, it's a good pick-me-up for regular Twitter users. ("You're popular," The Awl's Choire Sicha writes.) As long as you have a follower count in the tens, you can feel pretty good about yourself. New users, like @1988_rubel, don't have far to go in their quest for online importance.
That's a different way of looking at Twitter popularity than the finely-cultivated following-followers ratio, the typical barometer used on the site. The analysis found that about three-quarters of active users follow more accounts than they are followed back, so there's still some bragging rights for those who can flip that around.
Even if you don't bring in the big numbers, you can still show off your newfound renown as a "top end" star. If you're popular and you know it and you really wanna show it, there's only one thing to do:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.