Twitter users are frequently ranked by total number of followers. It makes sense. The more followers one has, the more influence that they possesses within the Twitter community. Recently, I’ve been seeing this term called “Twitter Karma,” a measurement that encourages reciprocity–if I follow you, then you should follow me back. Since I don’t follow everyone who follows me, as indicated by my 7:4 followers-to-follow ratio, I started to rethink my practice. Do I really have bad Twitter Karma? Should I be following everyone who follows me?
The questions led me to my bookshelf and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. I thumbed through the book until I found what I was looking for: social channel capacity.
“As human beings…we can only handle so much information at once. Once we pass a certain boundary, we become overwhelmed.” pp 176
Gladwell continues by quoting British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.
“The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum amount of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us. Putting it another way, it’s the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.” pp 179
And that got me to thinking. If there is a natural limit to the number of tweeple who I can have a genuinely social relationship with, and I’m following more than that number, what does that say about my Karma?
So I decided to perform a test. What could I tell you about each of the tweeple I follow?
My criteria was loose. If could recall at least one fact, I counted them. For example, although we’ve never had an online or offline conversation, I do know that Tara Hunt (http://twitter.com/missrogue) has a new book called The Whuffie Factor coming out. So I counted her as a one. Got it?
Here’s the result. Of the 446 tweeple I follow, I can only tell you at least one fact about 166 (37%) of them. Put another way, I have no clue about the other 63% ?
Next, I tightened the criteria to only count those who I wouldn’t be embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if I happened to run into them at a bar. In this case, we’d have to have some sort of mutual relationship, however minuscule it may be.
Although I’m sorry to say that Ms. Hunt didn’t make the cut this time, I was pleasantly surprised to find 104 tweeple who met my criteria. And yet, although 104 sounds like a big number, I was humbled by the fact that it only represented 23% of those whom I supposedly “follow.”
So what does this say for my Twitter Karma? If I’m “following” your tweets yet can’t recite a single fact about you, might we consider that BAD Twitter Karma?
Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite writers. He (http://twitter.com/gladwell) has 4902 Twitter followers, of which I’m one. But guess what? He’s only following 11 tweeple, of which I’m not one. According to conventional Twisdom, Mr. Gladwell has REALLY BAD Twitter Karma!
On the contrary, I think that by Malcolm Gladwell sharing his thoughts with those who seek them is good Karma.
Photo Credit: http://flickr.com/photos/julphotos/