Why one of the best things you can do on Twitter is point to other people

Why one of the best things you can do on Twitter is point to other people August 13, 2012

Today I discovered a tool that confirmed something I have long suspected. The virtual crowds of people who follow people on Twitter do not overlap as much as you might suspect. As a result one of the most helpful things you can do is help your followers find other people you enjoy reading. Don’t assume that even if you have far fewer followers than your personal favourites, everyone following you must “surely” have already heard of them and decided to follow or not. One of my closest friends spoke for example of his surprise at meeting American Christians who have not even heard of John Piper. One of the functions of this blog, and my Twitter feed, has always been to try and bring people to your attention who I think will be able to help you. You do not have to agree with everything that someone writes to be able to benefit from reading them.

But on to the interesting stats. Turn away now if such matters bore you, though all of these accounts are worth following. The first comparison I made was to take myself and Frank Viola, a well-known Christian author who’s views often overlap with mine (not always, often!) you might expect that a good proportion of our Twitter followers would therefore be the same people. In fact, those who follow both of us comprise less than 5% of the total pool of people that have at least one of us on their list. (See this webpage for more details of this)

I wondered if this was just some strange phenomena involving myself and Frank. Perhaps we are way more different than I thought we are and hence collect a different pool of followers. So I looked at comparing my pool of followers with some others. Tim Challies and I overlap by just under 10%. While, my pastor and I overlap by less,  8.7%.  At 5% Frank Turk and I do overlap, but surely far less than we should?

Ed Stetzer and I overlap by around 7%, but in that case his follower count is so much higher than mine that it is worth pointing out that around half of my followers follow him, if the same were true the other way, I’d have a lot more than I do currently. Ed, send a bit more love my way, its clearly too much of a one-way street!

Rick Warren has so many followers that we cannot compare this stat in a similar way, intriguingly he follows a more similar number to me, and we can therefore compare the overlap of the people we follow, and he and I actually both follow 12% of the total pool that either of us do.

Myself and Terry Virgo do overlap a fair bit, but still only 12%. To me that is a tiny amount. Why would you want to follow me and not Terry? I could see that the other way round, perhaps (i.e. you might want to follow Terry and not me!). PJ Smyth and I, good friends, and like Terry from the same family of churches, have an overlap of 8.7%. It gets really interesting when you look at three names, as you can see on this page outlining the various overlaps between me, Terry and PJ. Just 5% of our total pool follow all of us.

Is it just me, do I have a strange bunch of followers who don’t like following others? Nope! Tim Challies and Frank Viola have a smaller overlap at just 3.4% than I do with either of them, perhaps that makes me a bridge between Viola and Challies!

The highest overlap I found was between PJ Smyth and Terry Virgo at 25%. Can you find a higher one?

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